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A NORTH SEA DIARY 1914-1918 

This book was originally published under the title of 





Made and Printed in Great Britain by 
Hazell, Watson <& Viney Ltd. London and Aylesbury 


IN placing on record some of my impressions of the 
Naval War, together with some accounts of such action 
as I happened to witness, I have been actuated by 
several desires and guided by one rule. 

I have desired that some small record should exist of 
the part played by H.M.S. Southampton in the great 
war. This little ship can claim an honour denied to 
nearly every other ship in the Grand Fleet. Namely, 
that on all the four principal occasions when consider- 
able German forces were encountered in the North Sea, 
her guns were in action. Those days were the 28th 
August, 1914, the i6th December, 1914, the 24th Janu- 
ary, 1915, and the i6th May, 1916. As far as I know, 
no other ship, with the exception of H.M.S. Birmingham, 
can claim a share in this record, as, though the same 
squadrons, e.g. the battle-cruiser squadrons, were 
present on all dates, yet ships that were in action on one 
day were away refitting on another day. So much for 
H.M.S. Southampton. 

My second reason for writing this book was that it 
seemed to me that a personal record of the North Sea 
war as applied to the Grand Fleet was desirable. 

Much of our knowledge of the details of the great 
naval wars of the Napoleonic days has come from 
letters, diaries, and personal accounts published at the 
time in the Naval Chronicles, and the historian of the 
future will seek for similar sources of information. An 
impersonal and invaluable account of our doings has 
been written by the highest possible authority, Lord 
Jellicoe himself. Of the doings of the company officer 
on the western front, innumerable books have been 
written, and I should estimate that the Army could 
muster a platoon of able writers who have written of its 


actions and life at the front. We in the sister service 
are astern of station in this matter, both in ability and 
in numbers, and no one realizes the shortcomings of this 
volume from a literary point of view better than its 
author ; but, and here I come to my guiding rule, this 
book is, to the best of my ability, a true account of the 
doings of one of His Majesty's two thousand naval 
lieutenants, and as such claims justification. It is from 
this point of view that I hope that it will interest all 
those who have had relatives and friends in the Fleet 
and particularly the light cruiser squadrons of the 
Grand Fleet. What we were doing in the Southampton, 
other naval officers were doing in the Nottingham, 
Birmingham, Lowestoft, Dublin, Liverpool, Falmouth, 
Chatham, Sydney, Melbourne, Galatea, Phaeton, etc., to 
mention a few of the cheery crowd of light cruisers with 
whom we flogged the North Sea from the South Dogger 
Light to the latitude of Iceland, and from the coast of 
Scotland to the coast of Norway. 

Some remarks on the battle of Jutland, that many- 
times-fought contest, will be found in the book. I 
have endeavoured to distinguish carefully between what 
I saw and what I have heard from others. One of the 
most mysterious things about the action is the well- 
known fact that the estimated positions of the Battle 
Fleet and the Battle-cruiser Fleet differed by 12 miles. 
The disarrangement this must have caused in the plans 
of Lord Jellicoe and his staff can only be compared to 
the case of a man who tries to cross a road in front of 
a car which he estimates would hit him in ten seconds 
if he was not across in time, and he then finds himself 
about to be hit in five. He has got to alter his plans 
and alter them quickly. Lord Jellicoe, whose book 
appeared after this book was completed, states that 
there could be no doubt as to the accuracy of positions 
as plotted in the Iron Duke, as she had come straight 
from Scapa Flow, whereas the Battle-cruiser Fleet had 


been in action for two hours and frequently altering 
course. At the same time, whilst admitting the force 
of the above explanation, it has always seemed to me 
that 12 miles' divergence of opinion was so large that 
other causes may have contributed to the difference. 
The Battle-cruiser Fleet had steered an easterly course 
from Rosyth, and up till 3.30 p.m. there was no reason 
why our positions should not have been correct. Yet 
at 5.30 they were 12 miles in error on the Iron Duke. 
I have often wondered whether, on our easterly course 
throughout the night, we were being affected by a 
\- or J-knot southerly set which was not running 
farther to the north-east where the Battle Fleet was 
at sea. It is at all events curious that, as far as my 
knowledge goes, the navigators of the Battle-cruiser 
Fleet agreed roughly on their positions, and the 
navigators of the Battle Fleet agreed more or less col- 
lectively on their own. Perhaps one day a furious con- 
flict of Pilots at the Navigation School will delight the lay 
minds in the Fleet who have wondered on this matter. 

As regards the track chart of the general movements 
of H.M.S. Southampton, it has been necessary to omit 
all minor alterations of courses, and her movements for 
the first eighteen months only are shown, as further 
tracks would hopelessly overcrowd the chart. It will 
be noticed that a considerable number of tracks run off 
the chart to the northward. Continued to scale, some 
of these tracks would necessitate a prolongation of the 
chart to the Arctic Circle. 

In this introduction I am getting what is known in 
the Submarine Service as " windy," so I will conclude 
with the hope that the people of this country will 
always remember that, though peace is very good, 
security is still better, and that the Royal Navy is as 
sound an insurance policy for the Empire as any on 
the market. 

S. K.-H. 












IX. HARBOUR LIFE ..... 121 




XIII. CARRYING ON ..... l68 

XIV. H.M.S. RAMILLIES .... 183 
XV. H.M.S. VERNON 193 

XVI. SUBMARINES ..... 199 


SHIP ...... 2IO 







ZIG-ZAGS ...... 50 

1914 ....... 78 

WARD . . . . . . . 132 









LOOKING back across four years and one hundred 
days of war, the events that preceded this great 
clash seem to belong to another age. 

It seems to me as if I have had two lives already the 
first up to 1914, the second from 1914 to 1918 and 
now I feel that a third life is beginning. 

This curious sensation of having already lived two 
lives makes me feel rather old ; such years as I have 
lived seem to have been long ones. 

It is like the old dodge of making seven days' leave 
seem like ten by staying in three different places, only 
the ruse is spread over years. 

My first life is of little interest to anyone. I was first 
educated abroad, and in due course followed the family 
tradition by entering Osborne ; from whence, the col- 
lege at Dartmouth, the training cruiser, a year in the 
Neptune with Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, eighteen 
months on the Cape of Good Hope Station, and 
another year in the Neptune, in which ship Admiral Sir 
George Callaghan was then flying his flag, followed in 
due course. 

A hectic ten days at the Navigation School, Ports- 
mouth, in which period I wrestled, together with eighty 
others, with an endless succession of examination papers, 
2 17 

l8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

and I emerged a confirmed sub-lieutenant in His 
Majesty's Navy. 

My most lasting recollection of these examinations 
was that the room was so cold that I wore a greatcoat, 
in the pockets of which garment I secreted ginger-beer 
bottles full of hot water, which I ostentatiously dis- 
played at regular intervals as a silent protest against the 
lack of radiators. 

Some hunting in Ireland, and I joined H.M.S. 
Southampton in February 1914. 

She was lying at Portsmouth, and flew the broad 
pennant of a Commodore with whose family my own 
has been in close association in the Service for many 

The Southampton, which in my eyes will always be 
the ship of ships in the Navy and in whose honour 
I write this book, was nearly brand-new, and then 
represented the latest idea in light cruisers, being in a 
different category from the Arethusa class, which 
were smaller, slightly faster, but with less armament. 

The Southampton mounts eight 6-inch guns and two 
submerged tubes for 2i-inch torpedoes. She has three 
inches of armour, and can maintain a speed of 25-5 
knots for four hours, and she is good for 23 in a very 
considerable sea. 

When I joined her at the beginning of 1914, my first 
life was drawing to a close, little though I realized 
that fact. 

In my second life I was destined to play a small and 
humble part in the great drama, and it is because it 
seems to me that the records of the little parts, when 
fitted together, may prove of interest to the present 
generation and of some slight value to the future genera- 
tions of historians, that I have decided to place on 
paper some of my experiences during the war. 

I have always kept a diary, and some of my material 
comes from that ; but some things could not with 


propriety be placed on paper whilst the war lasted, and 
in such cases I have to trust to an indifferent memory. 
Should any gross errors meet the eye of any of my 
shipmates who may chance to borrow this book, I hope 
they will write to me. 

We were working up for gunnery practices and play- 
ing golf at Oban in April when the news came that 
the First Light Cruiser Squadron, which consisted of 
the Southampton, Birmingham, and Nottingham, would 
proceed to Kiel Bay in June, accompanied by a squad- 
ron of four battleships under Sir George Warrender 
flying his flag in the King George V. 

We went to Portland to prepare for the trip, and 
everyone hastily surveyed their uniforms, and in 
some cases reluctantly purchased full dress and ball 
dress, as an order was issued 

" That whilst in German waters, uniform would be 
worn ashore ; for purposes of sport, flannels would be 
permitted, and it was hoped officers would see that the 
latter were of an immaculate nature." 

This last admonition caused great amusement in the 

In a dense fog we sailed for Kiel on the 2ist June, 
and had a harmless and entertaining bumping match 
with a fishing smack off the Jutland coast. 

That afternoon we rehearsed cheering ship for the 
Kaiser ! 

Rounding the Skaw, we made the passage of the Belt, 
and arrived at the northern limit of Kiel Bay at dusk 
on the 23rd. 

I was on watch when we anchored. The navigator 
now a colonel in the R.A.F. turned to me and said : 

" Do you believe in omens ? " and pointed to the 
southern sky. 

I looked up and saw a very curiously shaped cloud, 
which must have been a mile long and was shaped 
exactly like a snake, head erect and about to strike. 

20 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

I said, "It's exactly like a huge snake." 

He replied : " Yes ; and the head is raised towards 

At that moment the setting sun tinged the cloud a 
vivid red. 

" Blood ! " said the pilot solemnly. 

We were both silent for a moment, and then, feeling 
rather foolish, we began to talk about something else. 

Next morning, German naval officers came on board 
to pilot us into Kiel. 

In addition to the German navigators we had an 
A.D.C. appointed to the ship, to attend on the Com- 
modore during our stay. His name was Kearhan, 
and he was a great big Prussian with the rigidity of a 

He could not understand our principle that, in the 
mess, officers do not behave as if they were on the 
quarter-deck, and that a commander can have a rough 
and tumble with two lieutenants without losing caste. 

However, we educated him considerably in this 
respect during our visit to Kiel, and also inculcated 
into him a taste for cocktails. 

We went to buoys in Kiel harbour, and it was 
reported that the Germans were very favourably 
impressed by the perfect manner in which the British 
ships tied up without assistance. 

As to our appearance, needless to say, we were 
" ormelu." 1 

In our own case, the Southampton's quarter-deck was 
a dream of dark-blue enamel, the stanchions of our 
awning were encased in pipe-clayed canvas, the decks 
were snowy white, having been planed by hand by ten 
carpenters to remove all stains. 

Our stay at Kiel was one ceaseless round of official 
visits, banquets, dances, and other amusements. 

1 " Ormelu " means " tiddly," which means tris chic in a naval 


We had almost to live in our full dress, which costume 
was certainly not designed for modern life. 

Our " chummy ships " were the Rostock, a light 
cruiser, and a battleship of the Pommern class. 

We dined all the officers of the latter ship one night, 
and her commander made a speech in which he said : 
" We try and mould ourselves on the traditions of your 
Navy, and when I see in the papers that the possibility 
of war between our two nations must be considered, I 
read it with horror ; to us such a war would be a civil 

Kiel itself was full of German society, and many well- 
known figures in the yachting world were there to 
honour the Kiel regatta week. 

Lord Brassey, in his wonderful old yacht, the Sun- 
beam, was anchored close to us. 

It was a few days after our arrival the Kaiser came to 
Kiel in his yacht, the Hohenzollern. 

He came through the Kiel Canal, and the bows of his 
yacht broke the silk ribbons across the entrance to the 
new locks, which were formally declared open. The 
completion of these locks and the widening of the bends 
in the canal permitted the largest dreadnoughts to pass 
into the North Sea from Kiel, instead of their being 
obliged to go round the Skaw at the northern end of 

When the Hohenzollern emerged into the harbour 
from the Kiel end of the canal, she proceeded through 
the lines of the two fleets at the highly improper speed, 
for a harbour, of about 16 knots. 

As she passed each ship the assembled ships' com- 
panies of both nations mechanically cheered. 

We were cheering a figure standing alone in admiral's 
uniform on a stage built up over the top of the upper 
bridge of the Hohenzollern. 

This man in admiral's uniform, standing at the salute, 
was William Hohenzollern, German Emperor by 

22 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

arrangement with his God, and one of the greatest 
poseurs of the age. 

In the wake of the Hohenzollern thousands of his 
subjects in every type of craft, from racing-eights to 
large pleasure-steamers, endeavoured to keep up with 
the yacht. 

One boat was swamped and I believe a few ultra- 
loyal Germans drowned before the Hohenzollern came to 
an anchor and was at once surrounded by police-boats 
to keep the populace at their distance. 

The usual programme of a day at Kiel was as follows : 

In the morning one watched the yacht-racing out- 
side. I used to do this from Admiral von Miiller's 
motor-boat ; von Miiller had been Naval Chief of the 
Kaiser's Privy Cabinet for many years. 

In the evening there were always a dinner and a ball 
ashore both very formal functions, and at I a.m. those 
who did not wish to go to bed, of which I was invariably 
one, changed into the blessed comfort of a dinner-jacket 
and repaired to one of the two night clubs which 
were patronized by the German Navy. At these cafes 
chantants one could consume vast quantities of caviare 
and bola, a sort of champagne-cup. 

I used to be a source of worry to the genial manager 
of " La Mascotte," as, being a teetotaller, I insisted on 

At these cheerful places one danced with pretty ladies 
of Russian and Austrian nationality until about 6 a.m., 
when one returned to the ship in a dilapidated condition 
and prepared for the next official function. 

I remember that one morning the flag-lieutenant and 
myself arrived alongside at 7.15 a.m., just as the 
Commodore came on deck for a stroll before breakfast. 
Explanations were futile, but we were cross-examined 
afterwards, and it was rumoured in the ward-room that 
the Commodore was contemplating an incognito visit 
to "La Mascotte " in order to satisfy himself of the 


innocence of his junior officers' amusements. To our 
great regret we never met him there. 

As soon as we arrived at any of these places we 
always had a great reception in honour of the British 
Navy. They would hardly have been so effusive had 
they been able to foresee the effect that self -same Navy 
was about to produce on their food supplies in the near 
future. Nor would the assistant paymaster and myself 
have sung an English song from the stage, in response 
to clamorous demands for a " turn." 

However, it is lucky that we could not foresee the 
future, for it was very amusing at Kiel in those closing 
weeks of my first life. 

I became fairly well acquainted with three German 
officers. One was a submarine officer, who I believe 
still survives. The second was the first-lieutenant of 
the Rostock, who used to seek my company with em- 
barrassing ardour, for he was apparently the only 
officer teetotaller in the German Navy and felt that we 
ought to be kindred spirits. We were not, for he was a 
gloomy man with depressing views as to the imminence 
of the Second Coming. The third was a sub-lieutenant 
in the battleship Kaiser, who did not admire me par- 
ticularly as far as I know, but he quite openly admired 
my English evening clothes, and expressed his inten- 
tion of coming to England with the express purpose of 
purchasing a " smoking," by which he meant a dinner- 

Some sports for the sailors were held one afternoon. 
The British ships were defeated at nearly everything. 
We discovered afterwards that preliminary contests to 
select teams had been held at Kiel, and these teams 
represented the picked athletes from thirty thousand 
men ! Our representatives were, of course, merely the 
best men in each ship. 

One night the German submarine depot gave a dance, 
which they explained was a very special private dance, 

24 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

in that we should all be in mess undress, and the 
Kaiser's severe displeasure was going to be risked as we 
were to dance rag-time, and, most marvellous of all, we 
were to be allowed to sit out in the rose-garden. 

The dance was a success, the gnddige Frdulein enjoy- 
ing the above novelties to the full. 

Some of the German ladies, in French clothes, were 
very attractive but they were dreadful when attired 
in products from the Fatherland. 

One of the former was a countess from Mayence, 
whom we were told was nicknamed " Countess Ice- 
berg." She was a very handsome lady, and I under- 
stood at the time that the British Navy did not find her 
so extraordinarily frigid. 

On the morning of the 28th June the Meteor, with the 
Kaiser on board, passed close to us on her way out to 
race. Wilham was with a large party aft, and seemed 
in the best of spirits. 

A few hours later a fatal pistol-shot was fired in 
Sarajevo, and the overture to the colossal drama of the 
world war began. 

I was at an afternoon dance in one of the Pommern 
class when the news came through that the Archduke 
had been assassinated. 

Dancing was stopped, and we prepared to return to 
our ships. 

In the interval, whilst waiting for our boats, I asked a 
German lady what this assassination meant. 

She told me that in her opinion it was a black day for 
Germany, as the Archduke, who had been promised by 
William the Second the recognition of his morganatic 
wife as Empress, represented German influence in the 
Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

She said : " All the work of fifteen years is gone." 

We got back to our ships at 5 p.m., and shortly 
afterwards the despatch-boat Sleipner came into har- 
bour and passed across our stern. 


She had been out to fetch the Kaiser from his sailing- 

William was seated alone right aft, and presented the 
most extraordinary contrast to his appearance in the 
morning we all commented on it ; his staff were 
grouped together watching him from a distance, but he 
sat silent and alone, staring straight in front of him, one 
hand supporting his chin. It will always be a matter 
of curiosity to me to know how much he knew, sus- 
pected, or had planned at that moment. That his 
thoughts were portentous I am absolutely convinced. 

That evening he left for Berlin. 

Our visit was shortened after this event, and the 
Germans invited the light cruisers to use the Kiel Canal 
an offer which we accepted, as it saved us several 
hundred miles. 

We passed through in the course of a day, and I 
noticed that we were photographed from above as we 
passed under each of the three or four suspension 
bridges which span the canal. Incidentally, Zeppelins 
were continually hovering over us at Kiel, for no obvious 
purpose except to take photographs. 

The evening of the day on which we passed through 
the canal we cleared the mouth of the Elbe, and pick- 
ing our way clear of the sandbanks which are so well 
described in the Riddle of the Sands, we passed Heligo- 
land at sunset. 

The island, seen from a distance of 10 miles, looked 
like a cloud resting on the water. 

We exchanged salutes with the battleship Westfalen, 
which was carrying out exercises in waters which were 
soon to be the haunt of British submarines from 

We came to Portsmouth, and in July the peace-time 
Navy, which had not had a real war for over one hun- 
dred years, and in which men had entered as cadets and 
retired as admirals without having the opportunity of 

26 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

seeing a shot fired in anger, sang its swan-song in one 
last review at Spithead in the presence of His Majesty 
the King. 

For the last time for many weary months, the ships 
were crowded with ladies, dinner parties were held on 
board, and the Fleet was a blaze of light. 

The weightiest matter discussed in the mess was what 
would happen if anyone was silly enough to tell us to 
go and bombard Belfast in the case of Ulster springing 
to arms. 

The Fleet left Spithead and steamed past the royal 
yacht, carried out exercises for two days, which, as was 
subsequently noted, bore little resemblance to war, and 
then we were dispersed to various ports to give summer 
leave and to demobilize the reservists who had been 
called up. 

We went, together with the Battle Fleet, to Portland. 

On Sunday, the 26th July, a friend of mine named 

S , then serving in the Devonshire, and myself 

walked out to the Springhead Hotel to have a lobster 
tea and to discuss our arrangements for the forthcoming 

Our plan was to collect some dollars and proceed in 
company to Ostend, there to support ourselves on the 
gaming-tables or in such other manner as seemed most 

As we were walking back to Weymouth, we saw that 
two battleships, the Lord Nelson and the Agamemnon, 
were coming into the bay. 

This struck us as curious, as we knew that they had 
sailed that morning for Portsmouth to give leave. 

On arriving at the landing-stage, we heard that they 
had been recalled, and on buying a local rag we dis- 
covered vague references to trouble in the Balkans. 

It will be remembered by those who have reached the 
mature age of twenty-five that this was a very common 
state of affairs way back in the 19105 and 133, and 


S and myself decided that Ostend would yet see us. 

Alas ! some undistinguished Uhlans were due to get 
there first. 

Next day the plot thickened, demobilization was 
stopped, and a conference between the First Lord and 
some admirals was postponed. 

The newspaper headline grew a little larger, and we 
were ordered to coal with all despatch. Four hundred 
tons of it were thrown down on to our upper deck by 
the automatic coal-shutes, and we were left to get it 
into the bunkers as best we could. 

That evening at 7 p.m. we received orders to be 
prepared to sail at 7 a.m. the next morning. 

Officers and men had to be recalled from shore, and 
notices ordering ships' companies to repair on board 
were thrown on the screen at the cinema houses. 

There were some affecting scenes on Weymouth Pier, 
as the ladies ashore appeared to be convinced that we 
were sailing for Trafalgar II next morning. 

This state of affairs communicated itself to the ship, 
and when it was piped round the mess-decks that 
" the last mail would leave the ship at 9 p.m." we all 
felt duly solemn, and only one hardy soul in the ward- 
room stated that he wrote only once a week, and 
Sunday was his day, and nothing would make him 
change it. 

Our late gunnery lieutenant, B. M , came on 

board at 8 p.m. He had been on sick leave, and had 
come down from London to collect some gear of his 
which he had left in the ship, thinking he would return 
to us ; to his disgust, he had been appointed to a ship 
which was mobilizing at Portsmouth. 

He told us great stories of the activity at the 

His great desire was to get a singularly fine arm-chair 
out of the ship, but he could not do so in the few hours 
at his disposal, and he was pushed ashore at 10 p.m., 

28 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

staggering under the weight of a collection of diaries, 
last wills and testaments, family documents, silver, 
and other personal valuables. 

He departed to a chorus of : 

" Don't forget, old B , my box goes to the bank 

at Portsmouth." 

" And give that tin case of mine to my missus." 

" And don't forget to take that cup of mine to 

" And . . . etc. etc." 

In return for these kindnesses we retained his chair in 
the smoking-room for upwards of one year, notwith- 
standing his repeated applications for it. 

At 7 a.m. on the 28th July we weighed and proceeded 
with the Fleet. 

For the first hour we steamed in a westerly direction, 
then, when out of sight of land, we altered course 16 
points and stood up channel for the Straits of Dover. 

This ruse, if it was intended as such, must have been 
quite useless, as for some hours we steamed along in 
company with a large German liner, which doubtless 
reported us by wireless. 

During the forenoon we received the " strained rela- 
tions " signal. This entailed preparing the ship for 
war, fuzing the lyddite shell, and placing war-heads on 
the torpedoes. 

I saw a very pathetic sight in the course of the fore- 
noon, which was the spectacle of our commander and 
a lieutenant reluctantly going round the quarter-deck, 
armed with two knives with which they were solemnly 
stripping down the canvas pipe-clayed coverings which 
conspicuously concealed the crude iron of the berthing- 
rail stanchions. 

I can remember at the same time the horror on 
P.O. Eve's face when the commander announced that 
in future the brass top of the after-capstan would not 
be polished. 


It was remarked by the older officers that we had 
never gone as far as this in the previous war scares, 
such as the Agadir episode. 

During the afternoon a large French battleship of 
La Republique class dashed past us at 20 knots, cleared 
for action and steaming for Brest. 

At dusk we went to night defence stations, and 
shortly afterwards passed through the Straits of Dover. 
The searchlights of both Dover and the French defences 
were very busy sweeping up and down. 

Once through the Straits we increased speed and 
steered N.N.E., the cruisers being spread ahead as 

From the purely military point of view, Germany 
never had a better chance of attacking us than on the 
night of the 28th-29th. 

We had not got a great number of destroyers with us, 
and a surprise night attack conducted by the massed 
German flotillas might have been a serious thing from 
our point of view. 

It probably did not take place for two reasons. 
Firstly, the Germans were quite certain they could keep 
us out of the war. And secondly, strange to say, the 
despised Englishman had got his Fleet en route to its 
war stations sooner than the super-efficient German. 

Considerable speculation existed in the Fleet as to 
why we were going north by the east-coast route and 
thus exposing ourselves to the possibility of a surprise 
attack. Presumably the Admiralty were accurately 
informed as to the unreadiness of the German Fleet. 

At noon on the 29th, when we were on the Dogger 
Bank, a German three-funnelled cruiser appeared over 
the eastern horizon. 

The Antrim and Third Cruiser Squadron hustled off 
to investigate. The Antrim looked so warlike that the 
C.-in-C. sent her a warning signal not to do anything 
that might start a war ! 

30 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

The German turned east and disappeared at a high 
rate of speed. 

Though most of the Fleet still thought that Admiral 
Sir George Callaghan was C.-in-C., in actual fact he was 
in London, and the second in command was in charge. 

When we reached the latitude of Rosyth, the Iron 
Duke put in to that port to await the C.-in-C. 

At 6 p.m. on 3ist July the Fleet entered Scapa Flow 
in a typical drizzle. Coaling was started, and went on 
throughout the night. 

The Home Fleet had become the Grand Fleet and 
had reached its war base. 

On this evening the censorship came into force and 
the art of writing private letters suffered a severe blow. 



SCAPA FLOW was to be the home of the Grand Fleet 
for most of the war, and it seems fitting to devote 
a few pages to the place before proceeding with the 

Scapa Flow had long been designated as the war 
base of our Fleet in the event of war with Germany. 
The strategic reasons which influenced this decision 
were simple and sound. 

In a great war the strength of our Empire depends on 
sea communications, and should they be cut we wither 
like a plant without roots. 

Our enemies were well aware of this fact, and the 
German Battle Fleet was a potential menace to these 
communications . 

Geographically, the odds were on our side, for the 
British Island is placed directly on the German flank, 
and all direct access to the west is thus rendered 

There are left but two routes, of which the first, 
through the Straits of Dover, presented great difficulties 
to surface craft, as the passage through the Straits is 
narrow, and hostile ships then find themselves in a 
gradually broadening channel, flanked by Portsmouth, 
Portland, Plymouth, and Brest. 

The second and only feasible passage to the seas of 
the world, which were criss-crossed by allied lines of 
communication, lay around the north coast of Scotland. 

On the flank of this route, the British Fleet was con- 
centrated at Scapa Flow. 


32 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Scapa Flow has, in addition to its geographical merit, 
several other advantages. 

It is lonely and difficult of access owing to its isola- 
tion from the mainland. 

It can easily accommodate the largest fleet, and still 
leave a margin of room for gunnery exercises : a 10,000 
yards' range can be obtained inside the Flow. It has 
more than one entrance, and the depth of water and 
strong tides make it difficult for enemy submarines to 
operate in the vicinity, either with torpedoes or mines. 

The isolation of Scapa and its rugged desolation 
presented little distraction to the officers and men who 
were in the Grand Fleet. 

There was but one thing to live for, and that was 
perfection in war. 

Under Sir John Jellicoe the Fleet ceaselessly strove 
to improve itself in every respect, and the Commander- 
in-Chief's energy and wonderful influence permeated 
every mess and mess-deck in every type of ship. 

The confidence of the Fleet was given unreservedly to 
J. J., and we trusted him absolutely. 

I question if there is an officer or man who served in 
the Grand Fleet for the first two years of the war who 
will not endorse this opinion. 

There is a striking parallel between Viscount French 
of Ypres and Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow : each 
paved the way for his successor. 

Sir David Beatty had not been granted the supreme 
honour of a general fleet action, but in his hands the 
lessons of Jutland have been imparted to the Fleet, and 
he has seen the British Fleet under his command reach 
a pitch of super-efficiency amazing to those who can 
appreciate it from the technical point of view. 

If the Germanswere acquaintedwith our latest battle- 
practice results it is not surprising that they chose 
surrender in ignominy to destruction in certainty. 

I have strayed somewhat from my subject, but Scapa 


is so bound up with the Fleet, and the Fleet has been so 
intimately connected with its C.-in-C.'s, that to write of 
one is to think of all four. 

Scapa had one slight disadvantage from the military 
point of view, and that was that the Fleet based on 
Scapa was not able to prevent tip-and-run raids by the 
German battle-cruisers on the east coast of England. 

The Germans were well aware of this, and carried 
out their raids on Scarborough and Yarmouth, not so 
much to do material damage, but to try and get British 
public opinion to stampede the Admiralty into an 
alteration of their strategic plan, and possibly a policy 
of dispersion of the Fleet. 

Their hopes were in vain. The Press and people of 
England thought imperially, and the strangle-hold 
directed from Scapa, which prevented the Germans 
even attempting to obtain command of the sea with 
surface craft, was maintained. 

Scapa was undefended in any way at the outbreak of 
war, and like all ports on the east coast of Britain there 
were no submarine defences of any kind. 

The first business of the Fleet was to block the 
entrances on the eastern side. Time was precious, and 
for this purpose a few ancient steamers were sunk. 

Later on in the war, I have often looked with envy 
at these wrecks and calculated the profits they might 
have been making at a time when every ton of shipping 
earned its value each voyage it made. 

The only other possible extemporized defences were 
batteries placed on the bluffs at either side of Hoxa 
Sound, which is the southern and main entrance. 

These batteries were originally 12- and i8-pounder 
field-guns landed from the Fleet, manned by the Orkney 
Territorial gunners. In the course of time these minor 
weapons were replaced by heavier stuff under the 

As soon as possible, steps were taken to protect the 

34 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

place against submarines by the construction of a boom 
and net, at one end of which a gate operated by two 
trawlers permitted the incoming and outgoing of the 
Fleet. This boom eventually developed into three 
booms and various minefield defences. 

The western entrance was also mined and netted. 
In addition to the above defences trawlers were con- 
stantly on patrol between the booms and in the entrance 
to Hoxa Sound. 

Destroyers were perpetually cruising farther afield, 
the Duty Division of which craft used to lie at Long- 
hope (another southern entrance) at five minutes' 
notice for steam. 

Every now and then they would receive the signal 
which meant " Round the Orkneys," and off they 
dashed at 28 knots, went right round the group of 
islands, and six or seven hours later were back again in 
Longhope. This annoyed the U-boats. 

The construction of these various defences was the 
labour of months, though by December 1914 Scapa was 
very fairly secure from submarine attack. 

So much for Scapa from the warlike point of view. 

From the human point of view it is a place which will 
loom large in the memories of many thousand officers 
and men. 

Looking down from an aeroplane over the centre of 
Scapa, one saw a large sheet of land-locked water, 
roughly circular in shape, of a radius of 4^ miles. The 
mainland of Orkney stretches two arms to the south- 
ward in a broad angle something like a " V," where the 
top of the " V " is to the north. 

The space between the ends of the arms is filled in 
by a circle of islands, such as Burra, South Ronaldshay, 
Swona, Flotta, and Hoy. 

These islands overlap each other, and the spaces 
between them are the various entrances to Scapa. The 
general impression looking from above is that a giant 


has put his finger through the middle of the Orkneys, 
and that the sea has trickled in and filled up the hole. 

The land on the west and south-west side of the 
harbour is mountainous moor ; to the south and east 
and north it rises barely 300 feet from the sea, and is 
dotted with low, sturdily built farms. 

Like everything else in those parts, the farms lie close 
to the ground in order to withstand the winter gales. 

Of real trees there are none to speak of, and except 
for the grandeur of the cliffs and mountains on Hoy the 
scenery is dull and uninteresting. 

The bird life on Hoy is wonderful, and there is plenty 
of shooting and fishing for those who are lucky enough 
to know the right people. 

In the summer and early autumn, when the Fleet 
was at four or six hours' notice and twilight lasted all 
night, life could be very pleasant at Scapa, and the 
atmosphere being of that glorious limpid clarity which 
seems to speak of great open spaces in the far north, 
the most wonderful colour-effects were of frequent 

The average naval officer is not in the habit of devot- 
ing many hours to the study of natural colour-effects, 
and the sailor has no use for them at all. What the 
English race demand, whether in the far north, in the 
mud of Flanders, or the heat of Mesopotamia, is games. 

The Fleet anchorage was in the south-western corner 
of the harbour and fairly close to Flotta Island. 

This island, rising hog-backed from the sea, and 
largely heather, was more or less seized by the Navy. 

Enterprising engineer commanders designed and con- 
structed stone piers. 

One battleship undertook the construction of a dug- 
out waiting-room close to the pier. 

The chef-d'oeuvre was the golf-course. 

There were 18 holes, and each big ship undertook 
the design and construction of one hole. 

36 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Great ingenuity and care were taken over the busi- 
ness, and one battleship is reputed to have spent 70 in 
getting turf for their green from a famous Scottish golf- 

To the best of my recollection, H.M.S. Canada or 
the King George V was responsible for a wonderful 
green, standing as smooth as a billiard-table amidst the 
encircling heather. 

Every afternoon, weather and circumstances per- 
mitting, crowds of officers, from Sir John Jellicoe to 
the latest joined snotty, lined up in the queue at the 
first tee. 

There was no mercy if one lost a ball. 

The first hole was about 200 yards downhill. 

The usual state of affairs on a busy afternoon was as 
follows. One couple hastily putting and almost run- 
ning off the first green ; another lot approaching ; a 
third running downhill after their drive ; and a 
fourth impatiently swinging their clubs on the tee, 
and possibly driving over the heads of the third 

For the sailors, rectangular patches of heather, as 
level and free from bog as possible, were selected, goal- 
posts were put up, and the patches were labelled 
" football ground." 

The sailor landed on the rocks with his football and 
played furiously. 

Beyond these two games, the only other amusements 
were shooting, fishing, walking, and boating picnics on 
Saturdays and Sundays. 

At certain intervals ships used to go and spend the 
week-end on what was called the North Shore, which 
was the northern end of the harbour, distinguished by a 
pier and a distillery. 

From the pier a road led to Kirkwall, the capital of 
the Orkneys. 

Personally, I should not select it for a cheery week- 


end ; still, it is a town of sorts, and I'm quite sure the 
war did Kirkwall no great harm. 

Scapa was really beastly in the winter, though some 
hardened souls professed to like it even then. 

It could be dark at half-past three, and it could blow 
so hard for days on end, that the sea inside the harbour 
prevented any boats being lowered into the water. 

I know of nothing more irritating than to see a 
trawler loaded up with mail-bags (and one lived for 
mails) crashing about in a heavy sea, whilst the trawler 
skipper bellowed through a megaphone that : 

" I dout ma abeelity to come alongside ye, owin' ta 
the prevalin' condeetions." 

I must admit that if it was physically possible they 
got the mails and their load of vomiting messmen and 
stewards on board the ships. 

Every morning, except Sundays (the C.-in-C. was 
rigid on this point), the Flow was the scene of great 
activity. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers followed 
each other at regular intervals carrying out gun and 
torpedo practices. 

At night the Flow was lit by the gun flashes and 
searchlights of the ships carrying out night firing. 

During the day the various bays around the harbour 
were each occupied by a ship carrying out i-inch aim- 
ing or " Piff," at a target towed by a steamboat. 

The object of life was " WAR," and the C.-in-C. saw 
that this point was never overlooked. 

At regular intervals a complete battle-squadron went 
to sea, and carried out heavy firing in the western 
entrance of the Pentland Firth, the battle-practice 
target being towed by the King Orry, and the keen- 
eyed spies and marking party from the Iron Duke 
taking passage in the destroyer Oak. 

Any account of Scapa in war-time would be incom- 
plete without some reference to the Gourko and the 
Borodino. The Borodino was run by the Junior Army 

38 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

and Navy Stores, and was either alongside some battle- 
ship or anchored conveniently in the middle of the 

When one felt opulent, a party was organized to go 
shopping, and returned laden with novels, games, and 
luxuries such as bottles of stuffed olives or salted 

The Gourko was the theatre ship. 

She could seat about 600 in her main hold, one end 
of which was an excellent stage, on which various ships 
gave performances of home-made revues and well- 
known plays. 

In a big ship of the Queen Elizabeth class with a 
complement of 1,000 officers and men, it is wonderful 
what can be done by the theatrical party. 

Costumes and scenery were frequently imported from 

The destroyers, hospital ships, the host of colliers, 
oilers, ammunition ships, and other fleet auxiliaries lived 
up " Gutter Sound " at Longhope. 

They used a different entrance from the Hoxa 
one, and were rather far away from the Fleet for social 

Later in the war, the Fleet submarines added to the 
company of small craft. 

Contrary to the popular idea ashore, Scapa Flow is 
not a very cold place, and though personally I am a 
lover of cities and prefer Princes Street to Hoxa Sound, 
I do not agree with the officer who on being asked his 
opinion of Scapa said : 

" It's gallons of water surrounded by miles and miles 
of all." 



ON the ist August we were able to take stock of our 
new surroundings, as to many it was their first visit to 

It was extremely difficult to find out what was going 
on in the world, as all official sources of supply had 
dried up under an intense blast of " super-secrecy." 

Some of the two-day-old newspapers seemed to 
insinuate we should be at war by the next edition, and 
others of the Daily News description seemed unable to 
imagine England ever going to war at all. 

In the Fleet the general attitude was a longing for 
more news and annoyance at being so cut off from 
the world. 

The two local Orkney daily papers each consisted 
of one page about 6 inches by 8 inches a meagre and 
unsatisfying allowance ; but we became quite affection- 
ately disposed towards them in the course of months. 

In the evening H.M.S. Centurion arrived, flying the 
flag of Sir John Jellicoe, the future C.-in-C. 

At 4 a.m. on the 2nd August I left the ship in charge 
of a miscellaneous assortment of cutters, whalers, and 
skiffs, which were to be got out of the ship and hauled 
up on the beach, so as to reduce the amount of wood- 
work on board. 

I noted with amusement that one of the boats was 
the first whaler, in which craft, according to the ship's 
order board, myself and fifteen others were supposed 
to seek safety in case of the necessity of abandoning 
ship ever arising. 


40 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

As the boat could only be reasonably expected to 
take ten in anything but a flat calm, it did not really 
make much difference. 

Though the hour was 5 a.m. by the time I had added 
our contribution to the hundreds of boats which were 
being pulled up on the beach, I repaired to the pier, 
where there was much to interest a casual observer. 

The air was thick with rumours. I was told by 
" the oldest inhabitant " that a spy had been shot " the 
nicht," and further, that all the butchers from the Fleet 
had been landed at 6 p.m. on the previous night, that 
they had slaughtered continuously at the Kirkwall 
battue till 3 a.m., in order to get meat for the ships, 
and that at that hour the butchers were so exhausted 
that they had sunk down in slumber on the floor of 
the slaughter-house, oblivious to the blood of their 

The ancient Orcadian refused to attempt to estimate 
the number of animals done to death. 

Passing on, I encountered a sub-lieutenant friend of 

mine, Lord B . He was attired in a sporting check 

suit and a bowler hat. 

I gently protested at the garb, but he silenced my 
criticism by explaining that he was on his way to join 
the Lion, and that he had come straight from Good- 
wood and hadn't the faintest idea where his uniform 
was, but he thanked his Maker that he hadn't missed 
the Fleet action ! He was as usual in tearing spirits, 
and I had to strongly resist the temptation to make 
several wagers with him. 

My attention was next directed to a fat figure in a 
blue serge suit. It was sitting in a dejected attitude 
facing the sea ; there were hollows in the cheeks and 
unshaven hairs on the chin. The suit was crumpled 
and saturated with dew. 

I found out the story attached to this individual. 

It appeared that at 7 p.m. on the previous night this 


man, who was an admiral's head steward, had landed 
upon his lawful occasions to purchase food. He had 
returned to the pier at 9 p.m. and found it desolate. 

He may or may not have been aware that his admiral 
had issued a signal ordering that all boats were to be 
hoisted at 8 p.m. At all events, such was his own idea 
of his importance that he had never conceived it to be 
possible that he should be left ashore. 

The inconceivable occurred ; and the steward, too 
proud to retire to the shelter of Kirkwall, had waited 
with ever diminishing hope throughout the night. At 
intervals he held forth to the pier master ; I understand 
he repeatedly announced his intention of handing in his 

This little incident impressed me enormously, and was 
a striking contrast to the day on which an admiral, 
speaking to the commander concerning the case of a 
lieutenant who whilst on watch had run in the admiral's 
steward for making footmarks on the quarter-deck, 
said : 

" Tell Mr. Smith, Commander, that there are 1,200 
lieutenants in the Navy List, but in the course of forty 
years' experience I have only met one good steward." 

I returned on board to breakfast, feeling that we must 
be very near war. 

All that day was spent by the junior officers of the 
ship in a fruitless hunt for news. 

The secretary, who was suspected of knowing some- 
thing, assumed an air of sphinx-like mystery, which he 
successfully maintained for about two years, at the end 
of which period the war was really becoming part of 
one's life and the oracles began to speak at times. 

On 3rd August I was sent away to land a certain 
amount of woodwork. 

In connexion with this question of landing furniture 
and other supposed luxuries of a combustible nature, 
opinions differed greatly in various ships. 

42 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Certain ships known as " blood and iron " ships 
stripped their ward-rooms and cabins, and I believe in 
one case ripped the corticine off the mess-deck, a pro- 
cedure which is said to have caused My Lords of White- 
hall to state that a repetition of this act would entail its 
replacement at someone's private expense. 

In our case, we were the fortunate example of the 
value of studying history. 

Our commander produced the confidential book con- 
taining the report of our naval attaches in the Russo- 
Japanese War, in which it was noted that the Japanese 
had stripped the ships at the outbreak of war, and when 
the war lasted on, they had found it absolutely essential 
to replace it all at considerable expense. 

On the strength of this, we very wisely landed very 
little, a source of much congratulation later on, when 
other ships were laboriously collecting money to buy 

I do not think it is generally realized that in this war 
the Navy has had to change its ideas as to what modern 
war really is, to almost as great an extent as the Army 
has had to. 

A case in point is that at 6 p.m. on 3rd August 
H.M.S. Southampton anchored at the entrance to Scapa 
Flow in order to protect the base from submarines 
faute de mieux. 

On the 4th of August we weighed, and in company 
with the Battle Fleet left the harbour and proceeded at 
10 knots on an easterly course. 

In some rough notes I made at the time I remarked : 

" I hear that some form of ultimatum we have pre- 
sented to Germany expires at midnight." 

It seems curious on looking back to think that when 
I wrote those words all London knew the news, but we 
didn't. It was a case of 

" Theirs not to reason why, 
Theirs but to do and die " 


with a vengeance. It seems still more curious to 
think how certain 60 per cent, of the mess was, that if 
war did break out, we should find ourselves " doing and 
dying " in the first forty-eight hours. 

On the night of the 4th August, whilst the crowds 
stood massed in front of Buckingham Palace, I was 
keeping the " first " watch. 

The watch is from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight. 

It was my misfortune to be saddled with the " morn- 
ing watch " as well. This latter watch extends from 
4 a.m. to 7.30 a.m. 

When I came up on the bridge at 3.45 a.m., C , 

the officer of the middle watch, said to me in a matter- 
of-fact tone : 

" We had a signal at 1.27 a.m. ordering us to 
commence hostile acts against Germany." 

" You mean war ! " I exclaimed. 

" Yes, I suppose so," he answered, then with madden- 
ing indifference he began to tell me what course and 
speed we were on. 

I hardly heard him, for I think that, due to being 
educated abroad and having spent some time in Ger- 
many, I realized a little more than he did what war 
between two Great Powers meant. 

How far short of the reality were my wildest 
imaginings I was to learn in the course of the next 
few years. 

This, then, was the end of my first life and the 
beginning of my second. 

My first life had lasted twenty-one and a half years, 
and eight and a half of these had been spent in uncon- 
scious preparation for the second life of war. 

On the morning of the 5th August, a message from 
the King was received by wireless. His Majesty has 
the happy knack of sending an official message worded 
in such a manner that it reads " unofficially," and I for 
one believe he writes his messages to the Navy himself. 

44 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Our first orders were to capture all the German 
trawlers we came across in the northern part of the 
North Sea, and to destroy the wireless apparatus in 
any neutral trawlers. 

I jotted down on the 5th August : 

" We know nothing as to the casus belli, or how 
matters are proceeding on the Continent. It is quite 
impossible at present to grasp the stupendous fact, that 
after a century of peace the British Navy has embarked 
on a great maritime war. It is useless to speculate on 
the outcome. God willing, I shall live to see our Em- 
pire emerge triumphant, though I feel that it may be 
a very ' waiting and watching ' war." 

On the 5th, 6th, and 7th the light cruisers under the 
command of our Commodore were busy sinking German 
trawlers and warning British and neutral ships of the 
outbreak of war. None of them had heard the news, 
and one German trawler cheered us enthusiastically as 
we bore down upon them. 

North of the Shetland Islands we came across a large 
fishing fleet. We asked them if there were any 
foreigners present. One man, with a voice like a fog- 
horn, bellowed out that they came from Hull and were 
all Huller men, except one foreigner a Scotsman from 

On our ward-room notice-board I noticed on the yth 
August a P.P.C. from the ward-room officers of the 
German battleship Schleswig-Holstein. Across the 
card was written, " We all hope to see you again." 
The date was five weeks old. 

We coaled at Scapa, and in twenty-four hours the 
First Light Cruiser Squadron, which in those days con- 
sisted of the Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, and 
Falmouth, was once more at sea. 

H.M.S. Nottingham arrived in the Fleet that evening. 
One of her chief stokers, who was on long leave when 
she left Devonport in a hurry, missed his ship. He 


reported to the barracks, but found that he was not 
included in a draft which was just going north, and he 
was told that he was being reserved for a Third Fleet 
ship. He at once broke barracks, and being deter- 
mined to reach Scapa, he put on plain clothes and 
joined No. i hospital ship as a volunteer. 

She sailed for Scapa, on arriving at which base he 
deserted from the hospital ship and hastened on board 
the Nottingham, where he expressed the hope that he 
" wouldn't get into trouble." I am glad to say he 

On the evening of Sunday the Qth we were to the 
northward of Kinnaird Head. I had been keeping 
the first watch, and at about 3 a.m. I was awakened 
by the noise of the alarm bells ringing furiously. 

To quote some notes : 

" I pulled on some clothes and ran up on deck, to find 
it was early dawn, rainy and misty. Every second or so 
the mistiness ahead was illuminated by a yellow flash, 
and the crash of a gun followed. 

" Suddenly the Birmingham loomed up straight 
ahead, or a shade on our starboard bow, distant 
about 2-1- cables (500 yards). 

" It was difficult at the moment to say whether the 
shells falling between us and the Birmingham were 
being fired by the Birmingham, or at her from a ship 
on the far side. I restrained our quarter-deck guns' 
crew from firing into the Birmingham ; she looked 
rather Teutonic in the early morning light. 

" The mystery of the alarm was settled by the sudden 
appearance of part of the conning-tower of a German 
submarine, exactly between ourselves and the Birming- 

" How the Birmingham actually turned and rammed 
her I could not see ; but she did, and when the 
Birmingham turned away, a large oily pool, bubbling 
furiously, with three black objects resembling air- 

46 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

flasks floating in it, was all that remained of the 

This was U.I5, and the first of the 200 odd sub- 
marines the British Navy has disposed of during 
the war. 

We had a signal to commence hostilities against 
Austria, but it was cancelled two hours later. 

The day after this episode, the cruisers and destroyers 
carried out a curious operation, which I only mention as 
an example of what quaint things were done in the first 
months of the war, and how little either the Germans or 
ourselves realized the power of the submarines. 

It had been reported that German submarines had 
been seen using Stavanger Fjord over in Norway. We 
were to go and investigate the matter. 

A few months later in the war it would have seemed 
irresistibly comic to go looking for submarines in 
cruisers ; however, on the loth August, 1914, we set out 
full of hope. To those who shook their heads, it was 
said : 

" Have we not within twenty-four hours sunk U.I5, 
O ye men of little faith ? " 

To this there could be no reply. 

Of course, luckily for us, there were not any U.-boats 

This sweep was probably done for moral effect on 
shore and amongst the crews of the Fleet, as at its com- 
pletion the Admiralty issued a communique stating that 
the Grand Fleet had swept the sea. 

I remember that it was whilst returning from this 
sweep that we zig-zagged for the first time to avoid 
submarine attack. 

Before the war ended it is no exaggeration to say 
that one felt something had gone wrong if one did not 
alter course about every ten minutes. 

Concerning this sweep I noted : 

" At the head of each division of the Battle Fleet a 


King Edward VII class battleship was placed, in order 
to indicate the presence of mines. We were some three 
miles in front of these ' mine-tasters.' I think we are 
about the best ship to be in in the Navy, as we are 
bound to be well up in everything." 

In the course of three years in H.M.S. Southampton 
I found no reason to modify that opinion. 

After the big sweep we all went to Loch Ewe to coal, 
and here I remember noticing the battleships suddenly 
break out into camouflaged masts and funnels. 

This camouflage in those days was intended to make 
it harder for the Germans to take ranges of our ships, 
which they did by a method known as the vertical 
angle ; for this purpose some conspicuous vertical 
object is required on the ship of which it is desired to 
know the range. 

After various experiments it was not considered that 
this camouflage was of much value, and the scheme 
was abandoned. 

Later on in the war, camouflage of the whole hull 
was adopted for a different reason. The object of this 
camouflage was to make it difficult for a submarine to 
tell what course the ship was steering. 

To digress for a moment, there is a letter from a 
camouflage officer to a merchant skipper who protested 
against the vivid splashes of green, blue, and red with 
which his ship was being decorated. 

The camouflage officer wrote in reply : 

" DEAR SIR, The object of camouflage is not, as 
you suggest, to turn your ship into an imitation of a 
West African parrot, a rainbow in a naval pantomime, 
or a ' gay woman.' The object of camouflage is rather 
to give the impression that your head is where your 
stern really is." 

For about a fortnight the light cruisers had a strenu- 
ous time sweeping about in various areas. 

48 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

In the first two or three months of the war it was 
customary to rule off a rectangle 50 miles by 100 in 
the North Sea, and call it Area I, II, III, IV, as the 
case might be. 

Light cruisers were then sent to cruise about the area. 
This was unproductive of results, and was soon aban- 
doned when submarines got busy. 

During the month of August, from immediately after 
the outbreak of war, our submarines had been in the 
Bight, or wet triangle as the Germans delighted to 
call it. 

The British E-boats, based on Harwich, nosed about 
round Heligoland (one actually grounded there) and 
penetrated into the mouths of the German rivers. 

Little escaped their curious periscopes, and they soon 
discovered that the Germans were working a night 
patrol off the Bight with destroyers and light cruisers. 
It was the habit of these gentry to retire into the Bight 
at dawn each day ; and it was decided to cut them out. 

This task was entrusted to Sir David Beatty in the 
Lion, with the battle-cruisers ; our Commodore in the 
Southampton, with the light cruisers ; and Commodore 
Tyrwhitt in the newly commissioned Arethusa, leading 
the Harwich force of destroyers. 

At 3 a.m. on the 28th August, the forces concerned 
rendezvoused near the Horn's Reef light -vessel, which 
is about 80 miles north of Heligoland. 

At 4 a.m. the sweep started. 



THE plan of operations was simple and depended for 
its success on surprise. 

Broadly speaking, the operation may be compared 
to the movements of a forefinger, the knuckle of which 
rested on the I have drawn on the chart on 
page 50, and the nail of the finger being close to 
Heligoland. Pivoting approximately on 9, the finger 
scooped out in a clockwise direction the general area 
marked AA. 

To continue the analogy of the finger, the finger-nail 
was Commodore Tyrwhitt's force, the first joint was 
the supporting light cruisers under Commodore 
Goodenough, and the second joint and knuckle were 
Admiral Beatty's supporting battle-cruisers ; whilst 
the Battle Fleet in the background may be fairly com- 
pared to the wrist that held the hand. 

The day dawned calm and foggy. This mist hung 
over the water all day, and on the whole was an 
advantage to us, as it added to the confusion and the 
uncertainty of the Germans, and protected us from the 
batteries of Heligoland, which were unable to fire a shot. 

At the same time it made it difficult for our three 
squadrons to keep alignment with each other during the 
sweep, and in the course of the day we lost touch with 
two of our light cruisers for several hours. 

At 8 a.m., when a few miles to the west-by-north of 
Heligoland, we altered course from south to south- 
west, and received a signal to say that destroyers were 
engaging destroyers, whilst at the same time we heard 
4 49 



Horns Reef 



V I 

\ /'8a.m. \ 


/\ Heligoland "'"-. 

. } Emden 


* V-..EIbe 

FlG. I. Approximate track of H.M.S. Southampton, neglecting 
various twists and zig-zags. 

(Sketch is not accurate to scale.) 


gun-fire to the south-east of us, where we knew Com- 
modore Tyrwhitt to be. 

We acted on the good old maxim of going where you 
hear a gun, and stood over towards the firing. It was 
impossible to see anything, but at the same time it was 
undeniably a most thrilling sensation to be moving 
through the mist at 24 knots towards the first sounds 
of gun-fire in battle that most of us had ever heard. 

At 8.25 a.m. two black shapes, which revealed them- 
selves to be German destroyers travelling at a very 
high rate of speed, appeared on our starboard bow. 

They had evidently been patrolling seawards, and, 
hearing the firing in between themselves and the 
German coast, they were scooting into their homes as 
quickly as they could. 

We got the forecastle and starboard-bow gun to bear 
on them and opened fire, but, as the mist prevented any 
ranging, we could only hope for a lucky hit. 

Two white puffs or splashes were seen to proceed 
from the enemy, and it was not until some ten minutes 
later, when three witnesses saw the track of a torpedo 
across our stern, that we realized that the Germans had 
fired two torpedoes at us. 

The hostile destroyers were going at least 32 knots 
and were moving between enormous bow waves, with 
their sterns tucked well down, and in about three minutes 
they had crossed our bows and disappeared in the mist. 

Shortly after this episode we were unfortunately 
observed by H. M.S. Lurcher, the destroyer in which the 
Commodore of Submarines, the present Vice-Admiral 
Sir Roger Keyes, used in those early days to cruise 
about the Bight. 

As usual, several of our ubiquitous submarines were 
in the Bight on this occasion. 

I say " unfortunately " the Lurcher saw us, as she 
obtained only a fleeting glimpse of us, and at once 
reported by wireless two German light cruisers in a 

52 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

position a few miles to the south-west of where we 
calculated we were. This sounded like business, so we 
abandoned our intention of trying to find the destroyer 
scrap and hastily shaped course to where we under- 
stood the two German cruisers had been seen. 

Sad to say, we were chasing ourselves ; the discrep- 
ancy in our position and that calculated by the Lurcher, 
led us astray, and for about an hour we were on a wild- 
goose chase. 

This matter of accurate position-finding is of prime 
importance in a naval action, and especially so where 
wireless signals are concerned, as in such cases one acts 
on a signal such as : " Hostile cruisers, lat. 54 N. long. 
4 E." 

Now the ship that saw these cruisers probably saw 
them perhaps 10 miles S. 50 E. of her own position. 
She may have been at sea two or three days, or, in the 
case of a submarine, perhaps ten days. 

During this period she may never have seen a land- 
mark or lightship of any sort. She has had to rely on 
her " sights " of the sun and stars. Should the weather 
have been thick, even " sights " may have been denied 
to her, in which case she has to rely on what is known 
as " dead reckoning." 

This consists of plotting courses and speeds since she 
left harbour, and estimating an allowance for wind, 
tide, and erroneous speed. 

It is thus obvious that in the case imagined above of 
a ship reporting hostile cruisers, she may herself be 
under a misapprehension as regards her true position 
a state of affairs which vitiates by a corresponding 
amount all her " enemy reports." 

If one is in sight of a ship reporting the enemy, the 
matter is simple ; she simply flashes by light, " Enemy 
such-and-such a distance, bearing so-and-so from me." 

I have mentioned this matter at some length, as 
during the war several cases of the importance of posi- 


tions and the results of errors came under my notice. 

On this occasion we chased ourselves for about fifty 
minutes, when suddenly every one was electrified to 
see a periscope on the starboard bow, distant 500 yards. 

The helm was put hard over, the ship heeled, and we 
prepared to ram her. The submarine made a steep 
dive, and some people on the forebridge stated that 
she went down at such an angle that her tail nearly 
came out of the water. 

A few seconds later we thundered over the place 
where she had been, and they must have heard the roar 
of our propellers as we passed over them. 

In about ten minutes' time the Lurcher suddenly 
appeared, and asked us why we were attacking her 

Luckily the submarine we had tried to ram had 
recognized our red ensign, which was flying as a battle- 
flag, just as he intended to torpedo us. Explanations 
with the Lurcher ensued, and the mystery of the two 
German light cruisers was cleared up. 

It was too late by this time to turn back to where 
the destroyer scrap had been going on, and at the 
moment no sounds of gun-fire came from the mist, so 
we decided to carry on with the sweep as arranged, on 
the assumption that the Harwich destroyers with the 
Arethusa and Fearless were somewhere inside us on a 
parallel course. 

An uneventful hour passed, until at n a.m. we inter- 
cepted a signal from Commodore Tyrwhitt, to the 
effect that he was heavily engaged with German light 
cruisers and he wanted assistance. 

We at once altered course 16 points, and started 
back as hard as we could towards where we imagined 
the Arethusa to be. 

The sound of gun-fire was very heavy right ahead of 
us when we turned round, and at irregular intervals 
a flash of yellow flame came through the mist. 

54 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

At 11.30 we seemed very close to the action, and the 
firing was so heavy that it seemed almost as if we were 
in the middle of the fight, except that no shells could 
be seen. 

At 11.40 a number of destroyers, which turned out 
to be British, steamed out of the mist, evidently retiring 
from something, and a moment later we sighted the 
Arethusa on our port bow in action at close range with 
the German light cruiser Mainz. 

Our squadron at that moment consisted of the South- 
ampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Lowestoft, Liverpool, 
and Falmouth, disposed in quarter line, and as soon as 
the Mainz saw us she ceased fire on the sorely tried 
Arethusa and very wisely fled like a stag. 

At 10,000 yards the squadron opened fire, and the 
German replied with a straggling fire from her after 
4-i-inch guns. Most of her shots fell short, but a- few 
hummed over us. 

It was very peculiar hearing the moaning sob, and 
realizing that a lump of steel full of explosives had just 
gone by. I examined myself carefully to see if I was 
frightened, and came to the conclusion that on the 
whole I was excited and rather anxious. 

The Mainz was now under the fire of about fifteen 
6-inch guns, and suddenly there were two yellow flashes 
amidships of a different nature from the red jabs of 
flame from her own guns, and I realized she had been 
hit twice. 

A most extraordinary feeling of exultation rilled the 
mind. One longed for more yellow flashes ; one 
wanted to hurt her, to torture her ; and one said to 
oneself, " Ha ! there's another ! Give her hell ! " as 
if by speaking one could make the guns hit her. 

Though she was being hit, she was not being hit 
enough, as at the range of 10,000 yards in that mist it 
was nearly impossible to see the splashes of the shells and 
thus control the fire. Also she still had the legs of us. 


To our dismay, the mist came down, and for five 
minutes we drove on without sight of her. 

Down below, in complete ignorance of what had been 
happening, the stokers forced the boilers until our 
turbines would take no more, and, the safety valves 
lifting, the steam roared up the exhaust pipes at the 
side of the funnels with a deafening roar. 

Suddenly everything happens suddenly in a naval 
action with ships moving at 30 miles an hour we came 
on top of the Mainz only 7,000 yards away, and the 
range decreasing every moment. 

Something had happened to her whilst she was in 
the mist, for she was lying nearly stopped. 

It is now almost certain that she was torpedoed 
forward by a destroyer, though it will never be known 
which destroyer flashing past her in the mist launched 
the blow which permitted us to overtake her. 

When the destroyers found themselves being harried 
by light cruisers, the traditional foe of the destroyers, 
they had lashed out viciously with their torpedoes and 
fired some thirty. 

An eye-witness told me that the sea was furrowed 
with their tracks : I think he was being cynical. At all 
events, one got home on the Mainz, and we closed 
down on her, hitting with every salvo. 

She was a mass of yellow flame and smoke as the 
lyddite detonated along her length. 

Her two after-funnels melted away and collapsed. 
Red glows, indicating internal fires, showed through 
gaping wounds in her sides. 

At irregular intervals one of her after-guns fired a 
solitary shot, which passed miles overhead. 

In ten minutes she was silenced and lay a smoking, 
battered wreck, her foremost anchor flush with the 
water. Ant-like figures could be seen jumping into 
the water as we approached. 

The sun dispersed the mist, and we steamed slowly 

56 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

to within 300 yards of her, flying as we did so the signal 
" Do you surrender ? " in International Code. As we 
stopped, the mainmast slowly leant forward, and, like 
a great tree, quite gradually lay down along the 

As it reached the deck a man got out of the main 
control top and walked aft it was Tirpitz junior. 

I have a photograph of him standing, a solitary figure, 
on the extreme end of his ship. 

Her bridge was knocked to pieces and there was no 
one to read our signal, which signal seems incongruous 
in 1918, but the last precedent was years old in 1914. 

Nevertheless, as we watched, a flag fluttered down 
from the foretopmast head ; it had been lowered by 
the boatswain. 

The feeling of exultation was succeeded by one of 
pity as I looked at this thing that had been a ship. 

Through glasses I could see that her deck was a 
shambles a headless corpse, stripped to the waist, 
hung over the forecastle side. This was indeed war, 
and the first realization of war is like one's first love, 
a landmark in life. 

The hundred or so survivors in the water were wear- 
ing lifebelts and raising their hands, shouting for help. 
We were debating what could be done when we were 
roused from the contemplation of our handiwork by 
the sudden outbreak of firing to the northward. 

The Liverpool was detailed to rescue survivors and 
sulk the Mainz, whilst the Southampton with the rest 
of the light cruisers started to get under way towards 
the new action. 

We had hardly begun to move through the water, 
ere I saw a magnificent sight ; it was the battle-cruisers. 
They had been coming up at full speed from the south- 
west towards all the firing, they had also of course 
received the Arethusa's call for help. 

It was undoubtedly a bold and dashing decision to 


bring these great ships into the Bight, and, as often 
happens in war, this decision was successful. 

The battle-cruisers arrived too late to do anything to 
the Mainz, but they were determined to get up in time 
to participate in the firing to the north which had just 

It is difficult to describe the impression produced by 
these monsters as, following in each other's wake, they 
emerged one by one from the mist, and flashed past like 
express trains. 

Not a man could be seen on their decks ; volumes of 
smoke poured from their funnels ; their turret guns, 
trained expectantly on the port bow, seemed eager for 

We were just able to work up sufficient speed to get 
astern of the Indomitable, when we sighted the unfor- 
tunate Germans, which were two small cruisers, the 
Kohn and the Ariadne. They had run into a detached 
group of our destroyers, hence the firing. A succession 
of salvos rolled out from the Lion and her squadron. 

One German disappeared in a cloud of steam and 
smoke ; the other drifted away in the mist, burning 
furiously and sinking. 

I was watching this spectacle on our port bow, when 
I heard a " crump ! crump ! crump ! " and turning 
round saw a salvo of splashes stand up in the water, a 
few hundred yards from our starboard side. I could 
not make out where these shells had come from, until 
I noticed a four-funnelled cruiser on the horizon about 
14,000 yards away, where there happened to be a clear 
patch, for I could see the German coast and some 
chimneys behind her. As I watched her a ripple of 
flame ran down her side, and I knew another flight of 
shells were on their way. They arrived with a 
" whump " exactly right for range, but between 
the Birmingham and ourselves, about 50 yards astern 
of us. 

58 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

We were quite surprised by this unexpected attack, 
but the Birmingham at once retaliated with a salvo of 
6-inch, an example we were not long in following, 
though it seemed ages before our guns went off. 

We exchanged several salvos with her, and she 
straddled us once without hitting, whilst we saw one of 
our shells detonate on board her. We discovered 
months afterwards that this shell had landed on her 
quarter-deck and killed about sixty men, as the Ger- 
mans had a habit in those days of taking spare guns' 
crews to sea with them, and these gentry were being 
mustered when our shell arrived. She turned and went 
into port, and we followed the battle cruisers. 

It was now 4 p.m., and as we were within 15 miles of 
the German Fleet their arrival on the scene of action 
was expected any moment. 

I believe, as a matter of fact, that the sound of the 
firing could be heard on the ships in Wilhelmshaven, 
where they were making desperate efforts to raise steam 
in the big ships and come out and drive us off. 

At 4.15 p.m. we left the Bight and steered at high 
speed for Scapa. I started the day at midnight on the 
2yth-28th and ended it at 4 a.m. on the 29th. 

I have forgotten to mention that we saw a number of 
floating mines in the Bight, which were avoided by 
quick use of the helm. 

We arrived at Scapa Flow at 8 p.m. on the 29th, well 
pleased with ourselves. The Arethusa and Fearless and 
our damaged destroyers had got in, and the casualties 
in officers and men were slight. On the other side, 
we had sunk three German light cruisers and two 

Looking back, there are several interesting features 
connected with this action. 

When the Mainz was sunk, we found that she had 
rafts on her decks, and that her guns' crews had been 
wearing lifebelts. This struck us at the time as very 


bad for the morale ; we soon altered our opinion when 
the submarine menace started in earnest. 

We were also made acquainted for the first time with 
the remarkably long ranges of the German 4-i-inch 
guns, due to their large angles of elevation. 

This cuts both ways, as at long ranges the German 
shells were falling almost vertically, and it was quite 
easy for their shells to fall just " over " without hitting 
the ship. 

The Germans fought well. They always have fought 
well whenever I have seen them fight at sea, and they 
were beaten on this day because they were overwhelmed 
by a greatly superior force ; and the side which can 
achieve this state of affairs will, other things being 
equal, always win in war. 

When we arrived in Scapa, it was a perfect summer's 
evening, and we had a great reception from the battle- 
ships, who cheered us vigorously, whilst the Orion sent 
parties over to help us coal a service which was very 
much appreciated, but which I never saw repeated. 
No less than three girls competed for the honour of 
sending me chocolates, and an unknown number of 
ladies sent sacks of warm clothing to the ship. Gradu- 
ally, as was inevitable, this enthusiasm died out, the 
pendulum swung over, and I once more occupied the 
position of a giver of chocolates ; nor at the beginning 
of winter in 1915 did one go down to the half-deck and 
contemptuously cast aside knitted waistcoats because 
the colour did not suit. 

On Sunday we were given four hours' leave, and the 
thirsty members of the Mess repaired to the hotel at 
Kirkwall, where each described the action to an eager 
group of officers from the battleships, pausing at 
intervals to " have another " and celebrate the victory. 
Towards the end of the afternoon some very divergent 
accounts of the scrap were in circulation. 



A FEW days after our return from the Heligoland scrap, 
the famous battle of Scapa Flow took place. 

This incident, which has never reached the ears of the 
public, is famous with all naval officers who were in the 
Grand Fleet at the opening of the war. The whole 
business started towards the end of the afternoon, 
when sounds of gun-fire came from the light cruiser 
Falmouth, which was guarding the eastern entrance. 
She reported having fired at and sunk a submarine, 
whose periscope she had seen moving through the 

It was considered possible that she had not sunk the 
submarine, if one ever existed, and it was assumed that 
a Hun submarine might quite possibly be inside Scapa. 
A signal was made that all destroyers were to raise 
steam as soon as possible and move about the harbour 
at high speed. 

Within three-quarters of an hour the Flow was 
covered with destroyers rushing about at full speed, and 
the sky was black with volumes of smoke. 

The Admiral Commanding Orkneys and Shetlands 
hoisted an admiral's flag in a destroyer and joined the 
glad throng. 

The excitement was added to by the occasional dis- 
charge of a 4-inch gun from some battleship which 
imagined she had seen a periscope. 

The traffic in the harbour was added to by the fact 
that all the big ships got their picket-boats out, and 
these, under the command of midshipmen, cruised 



vigorously about looking for submarines. What they 
would have done if they had met one I do not suppose 
their commanders quite knew, for depth charges had 
not been invented then. 

The question as to whether a German submarine had 
or had not got into Scapa Flow remained a somewhat 
doubtful point, and it was decided, as a precautionary 
measure, to take the whole Fleet round to Loch Ewe on 
the west coast, and this was done after dark. 

Rumour has had it that an engineer rear-admiral was 
seen scrambling up a Jacob's ladder which dangled over 
the stern of the repair-ship Cyclops, such was the speed 
of the evacuation. However, after a day or two's 
absence, the Fleet returned to its base. 

We had meanwhile carried out various sweeps to- 
wards the Norwegian coast in company with the battle- 
cruisers, in the course of which the only excitement was 
caused by a report we received one morning that a 
German light cruiser was being chased to the northward 
by the Swift. 

Other ships picked up the signal, and soon an 
observer in an aeroplane with a radius of horizon of 
100 miles would have seen a collection of light cruisers 
and destroyers spread over some 50 miles and headed 
by the Swift, all steaming north at full speed. 

The German light cruiser had originated in the mind 
of someone who had caught sight of the Swift a ship 
of unique appearance in the distance. The Swift had 
intercepted the signal and seen some smoke on the 
horizon, which, coupled with a difference of opinion as 
to positions, had started the ball rolling. We got up 
to the latitude of Lerwick before we discovered the 

At about this period we went to the Firth of Forth 
for a few days, and found submarines very active in the 

I see I noted down : 

62 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" Sunday, 6th Sept. Coaled ship ; submarine scare 
by Forth Bridge batteries during the night. 

" Monday, jth. Four hours' leave was granted to 
officers, so I went up to Edinburgh ; it was nice being 
ashore in town. There are plenty of soldiers every- 
where, and people turned round to look at naval officers 
in uniform, which was evidently a strange sight. 

" I had my hair cut by a man whose brother had 
given the Russians cigarettes, so it seems it is true that 
the Russians are passing through. 

" Fresh submarine scare by the soldiers during the 

" Tuesday, 8th. Weighed and proceeded out. We 
were not sorry to clear the land, as several submarines 
had been seen off May Island and Bass Rock." 

With reference to my remark about people turning 
round to look at naval uniforms, it was not long before 
more naval officers were to be seen on a fine afternoon 
in Princes Street than in any other street in the British 

A combined sweep towards the Bight, which was 
intended as a repetition of the Heligoland action, 
ensued, but it was unproductive. 

We returned to Scapa, spent a few days there, and 
then carried out another sweep, which was confined to 
the cruisers. 

I was on watch at about 7 a.m. on the 22nd Septem- 
ber, and we were steaming north, in beautiful weather, 
with the Norwegian coast on our starboard hand, which 
looked very lovely in the early morning sun, when I 
heard a voice exclaim : " Signal, sir ! " 

I took the flimsy piece of paper, which was dated 
7.15 a.m., and was horrified to read these words : 

" Cressy to all ships, Aboukir is sinking, so are we." 

I was still trying to grasp what this meant, when at 
7.25 we received two words : " Hague sinking." 


Then there succeeded an ominous silence, broken only 
by persistent efforts on the part of Harwich to call the 
three ships. 

One more fragment, one last cry from the dying ships 
came through : it was a latitude and longitude close to 
the Hook of Holland. Then there was complete wire- 
less silence. 

It seemed terrible to think that we were powerless to 
help 1,500 to 2,000 officers and men who were fighting 
for their lives 300 miles away across the smooth sunlit 

Everyone in the ship was rather depressed by this 
disaster. One day the causes which contributed to the 
loss of these ships will doubtless be carefully examined 
by those in possession of all the facts. 

In the afternoon we received an " Admiralty to all 
ships " wireless message, pointing out the necessity of 
big ships deserting one of their number who might have 
been torpedoed. 

The German commander who torpedoed those three 
ships was Weddigen, in U.g. He was subsequently 
rammed by H.M.S. Dreadnought when he attacked the 
Grand Fleet in U.2g. 

U.Q, decorated with an iron cross, is now lying 
amongst 120 other U. -boats in Harwich harbour. 

A few days later we were once more at sea, off the 
Naze, and on the 28th-2Qth September, 1914, we en- 
countered the heaviest gale I have ever met in the 
North Sea. We were obliged to heave-to for sixteen 
hours, and the seas in the Norwegian Deep (where we 
were) were truly mountainous, an appelation which is 
applied too frequently to seas without any justification. 

The wind blew from the north-west, and the whole 
surface of the sea was white with streaks of foam and 

When the gale was at its height, with the wind 
blowing about force 10, we saw an interesting sight. 

64 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

H.M.S. Drake, a big armoured cruiser in which I 
had a family interest, and a submarine drifted into 
sight. The submarine was 5, and this party had 
been on a reconnaissance inside the Skaw. 

It was interesting to observe the three types of 
vessels, the Drake pitching and rolling and plunging 
heavily, her great bows being right out of the water 
one moment and her forecastle buried in a wave the 
next, the submarine moving like a half-submerged 
rock. 5 caused us some anxiety by disappearing 
for twenty-four hours. We found out afterwards that 
she had only got so " fed up " with the gale that she 
decided to dive for a day. 

On our way back to Scapa we searched for seaplane 
No. 77, which had been missing for twenty-four hours, 
but without any success. 

I see in my notes that on arrival at Scapa I visited 
the hospital ship Rohilla, where I was attending the 
dentist, and that I was greatly incensed by a lieutenant 
from the New Zealand whom I met there, and who 
enraged me by asking me whether the Southampton had 
let off their guns at the Heligoland action. 

In the opening days of October the first Canadian 
Expeditionary Force came over in thirty-one ships. 

For nine days the entire Fleet occupied various 
positions in the North Sea in order to guard against 
the possibility of the German battle-cruisers making a 
sortie and attacking the convoy. At least we were out 
for nine days, and I think the Battle Fleet farther north 
were at sea for a similar period. 

The scheme was to have two patrol lines across the 
North Sea, at such a distance apart in a north and 
south direction that nothing could pass one line in the 
dark without being seen by the other line in the 

Our beat (the First Light Cruiser Squadron) was the 
western end of the southern line. 


The exact position of the lines was altered daily in 
order to make submarine attack less likely, as by this 
stage of the war the submarine menace was being 
seriously considered. On one night of this patrol an 
incident occurred which might easily have had serious 

In a signal which we sent by wireless to our squadron, 
who were spread ahead of us, we intended to say that 
the squadron would turn together to south. Unfor- 
tunately the word south was coded as " east," and 
during the first watch the whole squadron suddenly 
came down on top of us. 

Luckily it was a bright moonlight night and recogni- 
tion was easily established, but had it been dark and a 
gun gone off, it would have been difficult to stop an 
action. In connexion with this question of recognition 
at night, the German enjoyed one great advantage at 
sea throughout the whole war : he knew that whenever 
he came out, he could safely open fire on anything he 
met at night. 

We were not in the same happy position, as, apart 
from regular groups of ships whose position one always 
knew, there were invariably a number of detached 
single ships, bound from base to base, or to refit, 
etc., and innumerable patrols, sweepers, and other 

It was not always possible to know exactly when to 
expect to meet these odd ships ; and the Germans 
showed great lack of enterprise in not sending over an 
occasional cruiser to make a raid on the night traffic up 
the east coast of England and Scotland. 

There is no doubt that the advantage of initial sur- 
prise would have been with the German, as any system 
of challenging by flashing light is slower than a salvo of 
6-inch, which would have been the German's reply to 
our demand. 

It was whilst on this duty in connexion with the 


66 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Canadian convoy that the Lowestoft, of our squadron, 
discovered one float of the seaplane 77. 

On Thursday, 7th October, we had the misfortune to 
lose a boy overboard. I tried to save him, but un- 
fortunately he had a large copper voice-pipe on his 
head. I was in the water about twenty minutes ; it 
was damnably cold, and I had more or less given up 
hope when I was picked up. The temperature of the 
sea was 52 F. 

Two or three days after our arrival at Scapa, having 
coaled, provisioned, and read a large mail, we were 
once more at sea. 

In those early months we were the only light cruisers 
available with the Grand Fleet, and we did a very great 
deal of sea-time. 

Five days in harbour seemed a boon, for the policy 
in the beginning of the war was to always have some 
ships sweeping and searching the North Sea, and on 
every trip we made, and the length of these trips seemed 
to be regulated solely by our fuel capacity, we hoped 
and for a long time even expected to encounter portions 
of the German Navy on a similar errand. 

As the thousands of revolutions on our engine 
counters grew into hundreds of thousands, our expecta- 
tions steadily receded and only the hope was left. 
Submarines were the only German ships one expected 
to meet in the North Sea. 

In those early days C and myself did not get 

much sleep. We were the two night watch-keeping 
officers. One night, one of us kept the " middle " 
(12-4 a.m.) and the other fellow kept the " first and 
morning." The next night the roles were reversed. 
I can remember the agony of turning out in the 
winter at 3.45 a.m. when one had turned in very tired 
and wet at 12.15 a.m. after the first. 

On the first trip after my ducking, the Hawke was 
torpedoed close to us. 


On the I7th October, 1914, we heard that the Grand 
Fleet was leaving Scapa, as submarines were supposed 
to have got in. 

As a matter of fact it was subsequently discovered 
that a torpedo had rolled out of its tube on board a 
destroyer and passed close to H.M.S. Leda, who quite 
naturally reported " Torpedo has passed under my 
stern." This caused all the excitement. 

Submarines were also reported all over the place, 
from St. Catherine's in the Isle of Wight to the Downs 
in the Channel, and again in the Western Isles of Scot- 
land. Lough Swilly was selected as a temporary base, 
presumably whilst Scapa was being made more secure. 

We arrived very late one night, and coaled ship most 
of the night. When the inhabitants of the village 
opposite which we were anchored woke up and saw a 
number of light-grey ships in the harbour some of the 
peasants thought we were German. 

The day after our arrival at Lough Swilly I went 

ashore for a walk with the secretary and K the 

gunnery lieutenant. It was the first time I had been 
ashore, with the exception of one day in Edinburgh, since 
we left Weymouth, and we had done much sea-time. 

I can still remember vividly how we loved being 
ashore amongst trees and pretty country. And because 
I enjoyed it so much I am going to revive the memory 
by copying down what I wrote that evening when I got 
back on board. I wrote : 

" Monday, igth. Went for a glorious walk, eating 

blackberries and sniffing the green grass with K , 

C , and the soldier. We had a great battle on the 

hills, amongst the heather, with clods of turf. 

" I also had speech with a dear old lady, who called 
down every blessing on my head, as she has a son who 
is a leading stoker in the Argyll, and I said I would 
write and tell him that I have seen her. Which I have 

68 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" An old man ashore thought that the whole British 
Navy was here though the Battle Fleet wasn't even in. 
On being told that there were ten times as many as 
those he saw, he said, ' Thank God ! thank God ! ' and 
threw up his hands in delight. 

" Just as we got back to the boat I saw an extremely 
pretty and well-dressed girl. I felt a tremendous desire 
to go up to her and say, ' Don't think me mad, but I 
just want to say " how do you do " to you and talk to 
you for five minutes.' 

" It is three months since I spoke to a lady, and I 

frankly confess I like ladies ! K says he will fit me 

with a chain next time we go ashore. 

" Our amateur band which the secretary and myself 
are getting up amongst the sailors is making good 
progress. I asked the Commodore whether he would 
recommend me for specializing in submarines, as I 
think they will have a great time in this war, but he 
does not wish me to leave the ship at present." 

We were not destined to remain long in the absolute 
peace of Lough Swilly, and a couple of days after my 
walk we were struggling east across the North Sea in 
the teeth of a furious gale. We were progressing only 
at the rate of about 5 knots, and after twenty-four hours 
of it we received orders to abandon the patrol and 
return to Scapa. 

On the 26th we heard that the Audacious had been 
mined off the north coast of Ireland, and a few hours 
after the news came through we heard that it was to be 
kept very secret. But as photographs of her sinking 
appeared in the American papers it was always a 
secret de polichinelle. 

On the 3rd of November the Southampton was 
detached from the squadron, and we proceeded to 
Cromarty to go on the floating dock for a week. 


We were much interested in the " gate " and anti- 
submarine boom which had just been fitted, and which 
was a great novelty in those days. 

We had been allowed to tell our female relatives in a 
guarded manner that if they came to Invergordon on a 
certain date they would " see something to interest 
them," and several wives came up and one mother, who 
was the lady I was interested in. 

We had hardly got up to Invergordon and anchored 
when we suddenly heard that the Yarmouth raid 
was on, and that we were to get to sea as soon as 

I was lying in the smoking-room, cursing this un- 
expected event, when the officer of the watch came 
down and said, " There are several ladies on board, and 
one of them seems to want to see you." 

I went on deck, and found that the wives and my 
mother had somehow found out that the ship was 
sailing, and as in those days every time a ship went to 
sea a battle was expected, the ladies had wangled a tug 
from someone and arrived alongside. The whole affair 
was very irregular, but they were allowed on board for 
ten minutes, at the end of which time they departed 
amidst cheers from the sailors. 

We sailed half an hour later, but long before we could 
have got there the Germans were back in Wilhelms- 
haven, and so we found ourselves back in Cromarty 
harbour next morning. 

We had a very pleasant ten days' rest. Officers and 
men were allowed forty-eight hours' leave as far as 
Inverness an unheard-of concession in 1914 and it is 
very pleasant to record that we did not have a single 
case of leave-breaking. 

Coming back from my forty-eight hours' leave, the 
train was one and a half hours late at Dingwall. I put 
my head out of the window and made some impatient 
remark to an ancient railway official. He looked at me 

70 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

more in sorrow than in anger, and delivered himself of 
the following obiter dictum : 

" Young mon, dinna fash yersel, the Hielan' Railway 
was no' deesigned ta stand the strain o' a European 
waur ! " 

We left Cromarty for Scapa on the I5th November, 

I noted down that : 

" I had the middle watch, and at 12.50 the T.B.D. 
Star, without seeing us, cut right across my bow. I just 
avoided dividing her into two equal parts by putting 
the helm hard over and going full speed astern with one 
engine. Neither of us had lights, of course. I made 
him hop out of it when he did see us. In a few minutes 
we were back on our course, and no one any the wiser. 

" Nov. 16, 1914. Scapa blowing very hard ; 
hoisted all boats ; snowed in my middle watch and was 
devilish cold. 

" Nov. 17, 1914. Blowing very hard and snowing ; 
went to sea and did some firing. 

" Nov. 19, 1914. Off Muckle Flugga (north-eastern 
point of Shetlands) saw a fat Norwegian liner, which 
made everyone lick their lips. To our disgust, found 
she had a pass from British Consul, New York, and had 
been boarded five miles off Sandy Hook by a British 
armed liner. 

" Nov. 20, 1914 (p.m.). Scapa coaling. 

" Nov. 22, 1914. To sea." 

Our object in going to sea on the 22nd was as part 
of a large fleet which was to support an air raid on the 
German coast. 

At the last moment the air-raid part of the business 
was cancelled and the seaplane-carrier returned to her 
base at Harwich, but having got close to the Bight, we 
thought we would have a look, and the Second Ar- 
moured Cruiser Squadron (Shannons). Falmouth and 


Liverpool were told to go and see if there was anything 

The battle-cruisers and ourselves were about 20 miles 
to the northward of them, and the Battle Fleet north 
of us. 

I remember we had a grievance in the Southampton 
at being kept in support, as we felt that the battle- 
cruiser force, as it eventually became, had established a 
priority claim to play in the Bight, at least as far as 
surface ships were concerned ; for the Harwich sub- 
marines spent more time diving about in the Bight 
than anywhere else, in fact they almost used it as an 
exercising ground, and as depth charges and bombing 
from aeroplanes, etc., had not yet been invented the 
Eighth and Ninth Submarine Flotillas treated every 
effort of the Hun to drive them off the German door- 
step with " stinking contempt." 

Our only excitement was the sudden appearance of 
Commodore Tyrwhitt and his destroyers, who arrived 
looking very warlike. It transpired that when they 
first sighted us they thought we were Huns. 

The Second Cruiser Squadron and company went 
in and reported that they could see Heligoland, which 
fired at them, but the shots fell just short, and that 
the only other signs of life were much smoke and a 
submarine on the surface. I believe this to be the only 
time in the war that the Heligoland forts have been 
able to open fire on surface ships. 

We all retired at noon, and at I p.m. a solitary 
German seaplane droned up from the south and dropped 
two or three tiny bombs near the Falmouth. This must 
have been the first case of aerial bombing at sea. 

We were detached from the Fleet next day and 
carried out a sweep up the Norwegian coast. 

We returned to Scapa and the inevitable coaling. 

We were at once told off for a monotonous four days' 
patrol from the entrance of Scapa to a point 60 miles 

72 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

south-east, then 80 miles north, then back to our 
starting-point. A sort of triangular yachting course, 
and vile weather the whole time. 

The ill-fated Natal, Birmingham, and ourselves 
carried out this business, which was intended to prevent 
fast surface mine-layers operating off Scapa. 

My notes say : 

" Dec. 4, 1914. Came in and coaled ; blowing like 
the dickens. 

" Dec. 5, 1914. It blew like sin, and we dropped 
another anchor underfoot and almost lost our steam- 
cutter trying to hoist her. I was officer of the watch, 
and she was plunging about on the falls like a mad 
dog, surging up and down about eight feet. The fore 
guy of the foremost davit carried away twice, and the 
five-ton boat came into the ship's side with a crash. 
Finally dragged her up anyhow with the two davits 
at right angles to each other, after one and a half hours' 
struggle in cutting rain. 

" Dec. 6, 1914. Blew a full gale." 



ON the I5th December, 1914, the Second Battle 
Squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender, 
the Third Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral 
Pakenham, and the First Light Cruiser Squadron (as 
we were called until the Galatea class formed a squadron 
under Commodore Sinclair) under our Commodore left 
Scapa Flow for a sweep. 

A great deal of uncertainty as to what did happen 
exists amongst the officers who were present, and the 
whole affair lies under a shadow which is due to the 
disappointment experienced by the Navy in the fact 
that, whereas at one period of the day it seemed im- 
possible for the Germans to escape action, yet a few 
hours later they were clear of the coast and steaming 
unmolested at full speed for Germany. 

I intend therefore to make quite plain only what I 
saw myself, and only what I heard from eye-witnesses 
after the action was over and one met other officers in 

At about dawn on i6th December we were to the 
north-eastwards of the Dogger Bank, when we received 
a signal to the effect that some T.B.D.'s had been in 
action with German cruisers, and the enemy were now 
retiring to the eastwards. We proceeded to chase east, 
as we gathered that the enemy cruisers appeared to be 
going only about 20 knots. 

They had a start of some 30 miles on us, so it did not 
seem very promising. The battle-cruisers and ourselves 
soon left the Second Battle Squadron and Third 


74 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Cruiser Squadron behind, and we pushed east at full 
speed for about an hour, when destroyers were sighted 
ahead, which proved to be British and on an opposite 
course. They had been shadowing the Huns since 
they left the British coast, and the Huns had not 
appeared to worry about them much for some time, 
until the T.B.D.'s got rather close, upon which one of 
the German cruisers had lashed out at them and hit 
one of them. As at that period we were still 30 miles 
to the west of them, the destroyers had given it up 
and come back to us. 

Hardly had the party joined up, when we were 
astounded to get a signal to say that Scarborough 
was being bombarded. This was at about 9 a.m. 

To our astonishment we realized that the main 
body of the Huns was behind us the whole time, and 
at the moment we all felt that this detached party 
which we had been chasing east was a ruse to draw 
us away from the coast before the bombardment began. 
I have never been able to ascertain whether this was 
the German plan, but at all events circumstances 
worked out in that way. 

We were at once ordered by the Lion to alter course 
16 points and proceed west at full speed. The situation 
seemed simple, and it looked as if the Lord had delivered 
them into our hands. 

One hundred miles east of the English coast, at about 
the latitude of Hartlepool, were the battle-cruisers and 
ourselves steaming west at full speed. Eighty miles 
east of England and a little to the southward of us 
were the Second Battle Squadron and the Third 
Cruiser Squadron, also going west. 

Twenty miles from the coast of England a layer of 
minefields, about ten miles across in an east and west 
direction stretched north and south parallel to the 
coast. At intervals of 30 to 40 miles up and down 
the coast were gaps in the minefields. Somewhere 


between these minefields and England were the 
Germans. As far as we knew, there were only two 
possible ways through which they could emerge into the 
open sea. 

The sea was flat calm, the visibility extreme. 
Throughout the ship was the feeling, " Now, my bonnie 
Huns, we've got you cold." 

During the forenoon we pushed west, straight for 
the gaps in the minefields. 

At 10.30 a.m. we had news of the Hun, and we 
were somewhat " intrigued " to get a signal, " Light 
cruisers must penetrate minefields and locate enemy." 
Paravanes were a thing of the future, and this order 
made our position look rather murky. 

The secretary, ever a philosopher, went down into 
the waist and selected a wooden door which had been 
taken off a certain compartment so that the door should 
not be blown in by gun-blast, sat down on the door, 
put the catch from " Vacant " to " Engaged," and lit a 
pipe. He refused to allow me to share it with him, as 
he mistrusted its power of flotation. 

We were not sorry to get a signal shortly afterwards 
to the effect that light cruisers would not penetrate the 

At 11.20 a.m. the situation was looking very interest- 
ing. The Huns had been seen leaving the coast and 
making for one of the gaps which lay straight ahead of 
us. The gap was 5 miles broad. We were just passing 
the Second Battle Squadron and Third Cruiser Squad- 
ron as the hands were piped to dinner for half an hour. 
We went below to the ward-room, leaving brilliant 
sunshine on deck. 

We rushed up fifteen minutes later at the call of the 
alarm bells, to find it was raining hard, blowing freshly, 
with increasing force every minute, and a considerable 
number of Hun cruisers and destroyers emerging out 
of a bank of driving mist scarcely 4 miles away. 

76 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

The light-cruisers' screen was spread as usual in 
groups of light cruisers about 5 miles apart ahead of 
the battle-cruisers. We were the southern group, and 
the Lion was about 8 miles on our starboard quarter. 
But a quick look round as I ran up to the after-control 
revealed nothing except the Birmingham shrouded in 
driving mist about 2 miles on our starboard quarter, 
bearing down to our support, and the two groups of 
Huns, which consisted of three light cruisers and a 
dozen destroyers on the starboard bow, and two light 
cruisers and an armoured cruiser (the Prinz Adalbert) 
and destroyers on the port bow. 

We went straight on at 25 knots, head into the sea, 
and spray flying over the ship in sheets. 

The Huns came straight on, with the sea behind 
them and the destroyers bobbing about like corks. 
As both the enemy and ourselves approached each 
other on opposite courses, it appeared as if we were 
about to pass between the two groups of German ships. 
In fact, both broadsides were in action for a short 
period, but when the group on the starboard side were 
bearing about on the bow, they altered course approxi- 
mately seven points to starboard and stood across our 
bows towards the wakes of the other party, which by 
this tune were bearing on our port quarter. To con- 
form to this movement, the Birmingham having got 
astern of us in support, we altered course to port, and 
steered parallel to the two groups of enemy. The 
foremost group slowed down, and the Germans then 
assumed one long straggling line which extended from 
our starboard bow to our starboard quarter, the mean 
range being about 6,000 yards. Fragments fell on 
board, but they never hit us, which was a poor display 
for five ships. 

We opened fire with all guns bearing, but the gun- 
layers foscame confused at the number of targets and 
each gun was firing more or less independently. This, 


added to the fact that owing to the sea and spray the 
telescopes were useless and they had to use open sights, 
made accurate shooting impossible, and I don't think 
we hit any Huns, though we managed to straddle the 
armoured cruiser. We were, however, recalled to the 
northward, where the Lion was, as any minute the 
German battle-cruisers were expected to come out of 
the gap, and as we were short of T.B.D.'s the battle- 
cruisers wanted light cruisers with them in case they 
were attacked by the German destroyers. Half an 
hour later we had been in the gap, and to our indes- 
cribable rage we had heard that the Second Battle 
Squadron and Third Cruiser Squadron had sighted the 
German battle-cruisers steaming east at full speed. We 
rushed after them, but it was too late. The attached 
plan will illustrate the general scheme as to what took 
place, though it is not accurately to scale. 

Looking back on it all, I think what happened was 

The Germans decided to get out along the southern 
edge of the gap. They had the amazing luck to get the 
sudden storm which in an hour rose to a gale from a 
perfect day. 

They sent their light cruisers and destroyers out first, 
bunched up in two divisions. This was the party we 
met. About 5 miles behind them the German battle- 
cruisers came along. Now had we proceeded west we 
should have run into these big brutes. It may have 
been lucky for us, but it was unlucky for our side that 
we did not. 

We made a signal, " In action with light cruisers," 
when we had our affair ; and as the Lion knew we were 
opposite the southern edge of the gap, it seems to me 
probable that they assumed we had made contact with 
one or two isolated light cruisers which might have been 
the southern wing of the German screen, and that they 
thought in the Lion that the bulk of the Germans were 


I 3 





t * 

Q (A 


7 8 


in the minefields to the west hence they called us 
north, to concentrate everyone for the expected action 
with the German battle-cruisers. 

Had this fog not arisen, we should of course have 
seen the Hun battle-cruisers behind their light cruisers. 
But war would not be what it is if it was not for the 
' ' might-have-beens . " It is idle to speculate on ' ' might- 
have-beens." If we had been able to destroy the Ger- 
man battle-cruiser fleet it might have profoundly 
affected the whole course of the war ; then again it might 
not have so done. Our failure when at one period 
everything had looked so promising was made the more 
bitter by the subsequent list of women and children 
killed in the bombardment. 

In its main object the bombardment failed. The 
people of England and the Press were not panicked, and 
the Fleet was not dispersed from its strategic position 
and distributed in small packets along the east coast. 

As an exhibition of Teutonic frightfulness, it may be 
held to have succeeded. Its most permanent result was 
the stimulus it gave to recruiting. 

After the affaire Scarborough we repaired to Crom- 
arty, which we were informed was to be our new base. 

We were there for only two days, during which time 

I went ashore with B , and we discovered a large 

sheet of ice on which we slid vigorously until B 

precipitated his 15 stone in a sitting position, which 
caused ominous cracks to appear, and we left the ice. 

That night at 2 a.m. we received orders to get under 
way and go round to the Forth. We arrived there 
next day, and learnt that we were to form part of the 
Battle-cruiser Force which would be based there. 

As the war dragged on the Battle-cruiser Force in- 
creased in size, and when I left the Southampton in 
March 1917 it was very different from what it had been 
in December 1914. 

In March 1917 the Queen Mary, the Indefatigable, and 

80 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

the Invincible were no more, but the Repulse, Renown, 
and Courageous stood in their places. 

Instead of the one light cruiser squadron in 1914 and 
the Third Cruiser Squadron, there were three light 
cruiser squadrons. 

The destroyer flotillas were more numerous, and I 
think I am right in saying that every boat was of a 
more modern type. 

Balloon and seaplane ships were non-existent in 1914 
in the Battle-cruiser Force ; in 1917 they were always 

Our leader in those days was Sir David Beatty, 
(now Earl Beatty) who flew his flag in the Lion. 

When we arrived at Rosyth we passed under the 
Forth Bridge, and I gazed up in amazement at this 
monument of engineering. Many times in the next two 
years was I to pass under the bridge, but never did 
familiarity lessen the wonder of the thing. The great 
bridge, with its perfect proportions and wonderful 
span, that seems to be supported as much from above 
as from below in its airy flight, became to us the door of 
our home. 

When we were going our people said : " What time 
do we pass under the bridge ? " 

When we were at sea, and the signal came to return, 
it was : " What time do we pass under the bridge ? " 

There are hundreds of naval officers to whom crossing 
the Forth Bridge in the days to come will be different 
from crossing any other bridge. 

The fascination of the bridge has lured me from my 

We passed the bridge, passed Rosyth dockyard, 
which was then very incomplete, and came to anchor 
off the village of Charlestown. 

The battle-cruisers were anchored between us and the 
bridge, and the destroyers above us at Bo 'ness. The 
Third Cruiser Squadron were opposite to us across the 


river on the southern bank, and the old Third Battle- 
cruiser Squadron (the King Edward VII class), known 
variously as the " Behemoths " or the " Wobbly 
Eights," were between us and the battle-cruisers. 

I shall have more to say about our home in another 
chapter, so will leave further description till then. 

We arrived at Rosyth about the 23rd December, and 
naturally we all hoped, but did not expect, to be in 
harbour on Christmas Day. 

Our expectations were fulfilled. 

On the 24th a dense fog enveloped the Firth of Forth, 
but with much blowing of syrens, shouting through 
megaphones, and narrow shaves, we got under way at 
II p.m. and crawled out of harbour, under the bridge, 
through the boom which had just been fitted, past Inch- 
keith, May Island, and so out into the North Sea. 

We were supporting an air raid on Cuxhaven. 

I scribbled some notes on the first Christmas at sea, 
which I have found, and I will quote them. 

" Next day (Christmas day), at dawn, we took up 
our positions with the battle-cruisers ahead of the 
Battle Fleet. The whole Fleet was out, and at B.J. 
stations, which means continuous action stations, but 
people may go away in driblets for quick meals. 

" I spent my Christmas Day from midnight to 4 a.m. 
on the bridge, 4-7 a.m. in my bunk, 7 a.m.~4 p.m. boxed 
up in my little after-control position, which is a gun- 
control station resembling a glorified long bath made of 
thin sheet iron, sitting on top of the beef-screen, about 
6 feet above the deck, and situated athwartship abaft 
the fourth and after-funnel. It has a canvas roof which 
leaks abominably. [Note. At the first refit I had this 
replaced by an iron one, on which we put a range-finder.] 

" Luckily Christmas Day was fine and bright, though 
bitterly cold, so I decided to try and celebrate Der Tag 
in some form or other. 

82 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" Firstly, I managed to get a gramophone up into the 
after-control ; my assistant, who in private life, i.e. 
when not at action stations, is the clerk, worked this. I 
then distributed a hundred cigarettes and chocolate and 
toffee to my staff, consisting of one boy and three 
ordinary seamen. 

" Further, I surreptitiously got up a small arm-chair 
for myself and a camp-stool for the clerk, also a small 
library, as, owing to the great visibility (about 20 miles), 
there was no chance of being caught bending. 

" At 10 a.m. I had a brain wave. Why not, I 
thought, be generous and distribute music. No sooner 
thought than done. 

" The telephone to all guns, and the voice-pipes to 
the guns, together with the flexible voice-pipe to the 
fore-control-top, were all brought as close as possible to 
the gramophone, and where possible pushed into the 

" The idea worked beautifully, as delighted messages 
from various parts of the ship soon testified. The fore- 
control, though 50 feet above us and 100 yards away 
horizontally, reported that the sounds of music filled 
the top. [It occurred to me afterwards that this 
scheme would naturally work well, as the microphone 
transmitter of a telephone would be very sympathetic 
to gramophone notes.] The guns' crews also reported 
that they could hear very well. 

" C and M solemnly went round the ship at 

ii a.m., and presented each officer with a toy. I got 
a wooden horse. 

" At 3 p.m. the Birmingham, 3 miles from us, re- 
ported ' A submarine in sight, close to me.' Almost 
simultaneously we sighted a periscope moving through 
the water like a shark's fin, about 1,000 yards on our 
starboard bow. 

" A rather uncomfortable five minutes ensued, and I 
privately got my swimming collar ready. However, 


nothing untoward took place, and the Battle Fleet got 
out of it as quickly as they could. 

" A flotilla of destroyers hovered over the spot to 
have at them should they appear, but they did not rise 
again during the remaining hours of daylight. 

" I finished my Christmas Day as I began it, on the 
bridge 8-12 p.m. and beastly cold." 

Next day we started back to Rosyth. The weather 
broke very badly and it blew a gale, which made the 
ship roll as much as 40 degrees every now and then. 

It was rather tragic, because, as we had been at action 
stations all Christmas Day, the mess man had arranged 
to postpone a very special lunch from the 25th to the 
26th. During lunch the ship rolled so heavily that the 
chairs kept on sliding away from the table. 

At one very heavy roll half a dozen officers hung on 
to the " fiddles " (which are wooden contraptions put 
on the table in heavy weather to keep the plates in 
position), in an effort to keep their chairs up to the 
table. The fiddles were unable to stand the strain, and 
one side broke. In a moment all on that side of the 
table, together with their chairs, plates, glasses, and 
half the lunch, were in a confused heap against the 
ship's side. 

The return roll made matters worse by precipitating 
the whole pot-pourri under the table, where they fetched 
up amongst the legs of the people on the opposite side, 
who, surprised at this unexpected onslaught, in their 
turn let go of the table, and as the ship hung over on 
the starboard roll a blasphemous crowd, each trying to 
save that portion of the meal which attracted him most, 
slid over the soup-covered floor until further progress 
was arrested by the sideboard. The navigator and 
myself, at opposite ends of the table, and firmly 
anchored to it by its legs, derived much amusement 
from this exhibition. 

84 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Eventually the acrobatic party finished their meal 
sitting in upturned arm-chairs wedged into various 
angles of the ward-room. 

We heard that a submarine had fired at a destroyer 
off May Island, in bright moonlight, a couple of hours 
before we came along, but we got in at I a.m. without 
seeing anything of Fritz. 

In the next month we were at sea twice on " set 
pieces." The first time we went out for three days in 
a gale to do some firing, and the second time we went 
out with the battle-cruisers to do a stunt in the Bight : 
all we saw were a Zeppelin, a solitary Hun seaplane, 
and a number of floating mines. There was, of course, 
the usual submarine alarm. 

On the 2 ist January I got a birthday present in the 
shape of an R.H.S. medal. 

On Saturday, 23rd, I traded on being temporarily 
a " blue-eyed boy," and got four hours' leave to go to 
" the Burgh," that is Edinburgh. 

I visited some friends of mine, and was invited to 
join a party which was going to the Haymarket Rink 
to curl. I had never played this great game before, 
and I was delighted to have a chance to learn. Whilst 
in the act of frantically " sooping it oop," the General 
Officer Commanding in Edinburgh, who was one of my 
opponents, informed me that a telephone message had 
been received ordering all light-cruiser officers back to 
their ships. 

There was a good deal of excitement in Princes Street, 
where I managed to get a taxi. I am quite sure that 
in half an hour most of the inhabitants of Edinburgh 
knew that the Fleet was under sailing orders. Later on 
in the war, in fact as a result of experience gained on 
this day, the recall was arranged in a more cunning 

I got down to Dalmeny, with two strange naval 
officers I picked up, in twenty minutes, the taxi-driver 


thoroughly entering into the idea of speed being a 
matter of vital national importance, though I dare say 
the ten-bob tip we promised him had a certain amount 
of influence. I had to wait half an hour on the Hawes 
pier before I could get a boat, and whilst I was there 
Engineer Captain Taylor, of the battle-cruisers, who 
was borne in the Tiger, came up and spoke to me. A 
most charming man, he never forgot a cadet who had 
passed through his capable hands whilst he had been 
Engineer Commander at Dartmouth College. He was 
the only officer killed on our side in the action which 
took place a few hours later. 

Apart from his personal qualities, he was a great loss 
to the Service from a professional point of view. The 
Battle-cruiser Squadrons, Light Cruiser Squadrons, 
Third Cruiser Squadron, and attached destroyers pro- 
ceeded to sea after dark, and rumour had it that there 
were wigs on the green amongst the staff in the Lion 
because the officers had been recalled from Edinburgh 
without Sir David's order. 

We went to action stations at 6.50 a.m., the disposi- 
tion of the Fleet being roughly as follows. On the port 
beam of the battle-cruisers the First Light Cruiser 
Squadron, astern the Third Cruiser Squadron, and I 
think the attached destroyers and their leaders were 
between us and the battle-cruisers. 

We expected to meet the Harwich force at dawn, 
and at that hour the southern horizon was lit by a 
number of flashes, and the sound of gun-fire told every- 
one that something in the nature of business was to hand. 

It appeared that the Arethusa and party had run into 
the German battle-cruisers and light cruisers, just about 
the spot where they expected to meet us. It was too 
dark to see what was happening, and I have never 
been quite clear as to this portion of the action. I 
remember one of the light cruisers the Aurora was hit. 

Coming to more solid facts. As we pushed on at full 

86 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

speed daylight made rapid headway, and we saw four 
German battle-cruisers which had been steering north 
turn 16 points and make off home at full speed. The 
sea was of an oily calm, and it was soon evident that 
the battle was to lie amongst the engineers as much as 
between anyone else. 

At 7 a.m. it was fully light, and the whole situation 
became plain. 

Imagine a A upside down. 

The German battle-cruisers, disposed in starboard- 
quarter line, were at the apex, steering an east by south 
course for Heligoland. They were preceded by a cloud 
of destroyers and light cruisers, who were practically 
hull down from us. At the bottom of the right-hand 
leg of the A were our own battle-cruisers. Across the 
base of the A were many of our destroyers. At the 
bottom of the left-hand leg of the A was the First Light 
Cruiser Squadron, consisting of the Southampton, Bir- 
mingham, Nottingham, and Lowestoft. 

We were about 17,000 yards on the port quarter of 
the German battle-cruisers, about 14,000 yards on the 
port beam of the Lion, which ship was about 18,000 
yards fine on the starboard quarter of the Germans. 
The visibility was extreme, the day was young, the 
Germans were running, everything was favourable pro- 
vided we could catch them. 

It was then seen that the Germans had a fatal handi- 
cap, in that the last ship of their line was the Blucher, 
a big armoured cruiser, standing half-way between a 
battle-cruiser and an armoured cruiser and barely cap- 
able of 26 knots. 

She was armed with 8-2-inch guns, and the story 
current in the Navy is that this armament was due to 
the fact that when our first battle-cruisers were laid 
down the Germans stole their plans ; but these plans 
were incorrect in that the guns of our ships were marked 
as 9-2-inch. 


The opposite number to this gun in Krupp's catalogue 
is an 8-2-inch, and the Blucher, which was a reply to our 
first battle-cruisers, was given this weapon. To the 
discomfiture of the Germans, when our first battle- 
cruisers were launched, they were found to carry eight 
12-inch guns apiece. 

Shortly after 7 a.m. all ships had settled down to 
what was evidently going to be a stern chase. 

There was something uncanny in the spectacle of all 
those ships rushing along in two great groups ten miles 
apart and not a gun being fired. 

Some trawlers appeared right ahead, in a quarter of 
an hour they were abreast of us, in another quarter of 
an hour they were vanishing out of sight astern. 

By 8 a.m. we seemed to have gained slightly on the 
enemy, who were evidently adjusting their speed to 
that of the Blucher. 

At 9 a.m. we had gained appreciably, and a few 
minutes later the Lion and Tiger opened a deliberate 
fire from their foremost guns. The Princess Royal also 
joined in. At the third salvo the Blucher was hit, and 
it must have been borne in on her crew that the hour of 
their destruction was at hand. 

The Germans opened fire in reply at our battle- 
cruisers, the range being about 18,000 yards, and after 
a time of flight of 20 to 25 seconds, huge splashes rose 
up around our leading battle-cruisers, which ships had 
begun to draw clear of our slower battle-cruisers of the 
Indomitable class. 

There was a marked difference between the appear- 
ance of the gun-fire from our ships and the gun-fire from 
the enemy. Our guns flashed, whilst from the German 
ships each time a gun was fired a ball of flame and 
brown smoke seemed to roll comparatively slowly from 
the turret. 

The firing was very deliberate and methodical, and 
for an hour without much visible result 

88 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

To us, it was like sitting in the front row of the dress 
circle at a play. 

Everyone who could get there crowded to the star- 
board side of the boat deck and sat there smoking their 
pipes. At about this period one of our destroyers 
between us and the battle-cruisers sprinted ahead and 
began to catch up the Germans with great rapidity. 
He got to within about 10,000 yards, when a salvo from 
some disengaged German guns soon caused him to drop 

At 10 a.m. a dull red spot appeared amidship on the 
Blucher, slowly flared up to the size of a turret, and just 
as we were all cheering exultantly, our cheers growing 
with the flames, the fire slowly grew less and dis- 
appeared, whilst we subsided into disappointed silence. 

I remembered that I had not had any breakfast, and 
managed to get hold of a banana and some pressed beef. 

At 10.15 we na d worked our way to a position 
appreciably closer to the Blucher, and whilst I was 
watching her I suddenly saw a series of jabs of flame 
down her port side. I was at a loss to account for this, 
until a moaning noise and a series of splashes on the far 
side of us revealed that we were her target. 

We at once scuttled out another 1,000 yards, followed 
by a line of splashes. It was a battle of giants, and not 
suitable for light cruisers. The Lowestoft was hit by a 
ricochet, but no damage done. 

I remember having a feeling that the Blucher was 
behaving rather badly by firing at us, and that we were 
not so much participants in the battle as interested and 
harmless spectators. 

At 10.30 the Blucher was being badly hit ; repeatedly 
fires broke out on board her and were got under again. 
She began to gradually drop in position on her consorts, 
who were abandoning her to her fate. 

Firing was now very lively, and both groups of big 
ships were surrounded by splashes. 


At ii a.m. the Blucher stopped, and seeing her do 
this, proud ideas of administering the coup de grace 
entered our heads. We put the helm over and, fol- 
lowed by our squadron, dashed in to 14,000 yards, when, 
turning to port, the 6-inch broadsides of four light 
cruisers opened fire upon the tormented ship. We 
could see our lyddite bursting all over her very plainly, 
but she was by no means dead. 

Our first group of battle-cruisers, the First Battle- 
cruiser Squadron, was passing the Blucher, intent on 
catching the Derflinger, Seydlitz, and Moltke, our 
Second Battle-cruiser Squadron was slightly astern, and 
for the moment the Blucher had only us to attend to. 

She had four 8-2-inch left in action on our side, and 
with these she opened on us and made some very credit- 
able shooting, the splash of one shell falling like a 
cataract on the side of our quarter-deck. 

Furthermore, she pulled herself together for a last 
effort, and, smoking and burning in a dozen places, she 
got under control again and staggered along at about 
20 knots. Beyond her our battle-cruisers spread out 
in chase, foamed forward, firing steadily at the flying 
Germans. We were able to tell the Tiger by wireless 
that her shot were falling over. 

A Zeppelin had appeared at 10.30, and hung like a 
silver sausage between the two fleets. He cruised over 
towards us, but we fired our forecastle 6-inch with 
extreme elevation and a time-fused shrapnel at him, 
and he ponderously turned round and made off. 

As we saw that the Indomitable was just about to 
come up with the Blucher, we resumed the main chase. 

Two of the three remaining German battle-cruisers 
had big fires on board, but they were still steaming 
steadily and firing with vigour. 

At this juncture we were somewhat surprised to see 
the Tiger and Princess Royal turn round and come back 
towards the Blucher. A hail of shell was poured into 

QO NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

the doomed ship, which as we passed her once more 
stopped and, evidently no longer under control, began 
to wander very slowly from south-east to north-east. 

We were still following the other Germans, not under- 
standing what had happened, and as we passed to the 
southward the Tiger suddenly advanced on the Bliicher, 
steaming full speed and firing furiously. Again and 
again the Bliicher was hit. I saw a shell burst against 
her foretop, and another obliterated her foremost 

It seemed amazing to think that human beings could 
be in that hell. Clouds of grey smoke were pouring 
from inside her, and in places her very hull seemed to 
glow with a red heat. Once more she fired, a last wild 
shot, and then utter silence as the Tiger ceased fire. 

We followed the Germans for perhaps a quarter of an 
hour, when we noticed that we were rapidly becoming 
the sole British occupants of the stage. Rather be- 
wildered, we turned 16 points and hurried back to 
where we had last seen the Bliicher. We found she had 
been sunk by a torpedo from the Arethusa, and the 
latter ship together with some destroyers was picking 
up survivors. 

We were approaching to assist, when we were sur- 
prised to see a line of splashes stand up one after the 
other on the sea. The general direction of the splashes 
was across the large oily pool which marked the last 
resting place of the Bliicher. A whirring noise made 
everyone look up, and we saw the ugly snout of the old 
Zeppelin slipping along between low-lying clouds. 

Our Commodore, who was the senior officer present, 
directed all ships to clear out at once ; and we were 
obliged to leave a number of Germans swimming in the 
North Sea. In those days we regretted this consider- 
ably, for the Bliicher had put up a stout fight against 
heavy odds, which we admired. 

Getting under way, we proceeded north and heard for 


the first time that the Lion had been damaged by a 
plunging shot and was in difficulties. 

We soon overtook her, with a nasty list to port, in 
tow of, I think, the Indomitable. En passant, it may be 
a matter of curiosity to some to know why the Zepp 
bombed us when we were picking up survivors, an act 
which infuriated the Germans we did save, who kept on 
making two remarks in the King Edward VII, to which 
ship they were transferred on arrival at Rosyth. One 
remark was : 

" That cursed Zeppelin " ; the other was, " My God, 
how you will burn ! " on seeing the woodwork in the 
King Edward's ward-room. They had had some ex- 
perience of fires, the survivors of the Blticher ! 

However, to get back to the Zepp. 

All British capital ships are fitted with tripod masts, 
and one German ship was so fitted, this was the Blucher. 

The Zepp had seen the Lion fall out of the line, and 
soon afterwards, from a distance, she had seen a ship 
with tripod masts sink. Putting two and two together 
and making five, she had planted some bombs on what 
she imagined to be the Lion's rescue party. Doubtless 
the idea that we should waste our time rescuing our 
enemies never entered the mind of the fool in command 
of the Zepp. 

The above theory would also account for the per- 
sistent manner in which the German Admiralty, doubt- 
less acting on the evidence of the only witness they had, 
that is the Zepp commander, repeated the statement 
that the Lion had sunk. 

Though the action was over at noon and the surface 
of the sea was devoid of Germans, our anxieties were 
by no means over. The great question in all minds 
was, " What is the state of the Lion ? Can she 
stick it ? " 

Luckily the weather was perfect, which gave her 
every chance. There were only about eleven men 

92 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

killed in the Lion, and four men killed and one officer 
(Engineer Captain Taylor) in the Tiger, also a few 
wounded in each ship. 

At 3 p.m. we gathered round the wounded Lion, Sir 
David Beatty having transferred his flag to the Princess 
Royal as soon as the Lion fell out, he having made the 
passage in a destroyer. 

Slowly the procession crawled north at about 7 knots. 
The day was succeeded by the night, but it brought 
little relief, as there was a bright moon. The Second 
Light Cruiser Squadron, ourselves, and forty-eight 
destroyers ringed her round. 

Altogether an uncomfortable night, especially as we 
received information that enemy submarines were 
chasing us on the surface though I hardly think this 
can have been correct, as I believe the Germans really 
thought the Lion had been sunk. 

On the 25th of January, tugs met the Lion, and the 
rest of us swept south to see if anyone was following us. 
There were no jackals in the Lion's footsteps. 

We received two good signals on the night of the 
25th. One was that the Lion had got into Rosyth at 
2 a.m., and the other was a congratulatory message from 
His Majesty. 

On the morning of the 26th we entered Rosyth and 
passed close to the Lion. There was little sign of ex- 
ternal damage. 

Thus ended the first action between ships of the 
Dreadnought era. 

To those who are interested in the study of war, and 
to naval officers, one of the great problems of this 
action is in the question as to why action was broken 
off at the moment it was. Many stories are in circula- 
tion, but until the facts are revealed no sound judgment 
can be formed, and it would be useless and improper to 
repeat what to a large degree can only be described as 
well-informed rumour. 


There is one fact about the action which deserves 
mention, for it is not a very generally realized fact, and 
that is that during practically all the forenoon our battle- 
cruisers were open to torpedo attack from the stern 
tubes of the German ships. The risk of this had to be, 
and was, accepted. 

As regards the German conduct of the action, for the 
personal conduct of those in the Bliicher I have nothing 
but praise. They fought their ship till she sank be- 
neath them : no man can do more. But I do not con- 
sider that Hipper, who I believe was in command, did 
well. With a Zeppelin at his disposal, he must have 
known exactly what he was up against, and I consider 
that the Bliicher was prematurely abandoned, and 
another hour might have saved her. 

Furthermore, his tactical position, on the port bow 
of our heavy ships, was ideal from the point of view of 
torpedo attack, and by sacrificing half a dozen de- 
stroyers he would have sensibly relieved if not saved 
the Bliicher and stood a very good chance of getting one 
of our people. 

At the beginning of the action, had the Moltke, 
Seydlitz, and Derflinger placed themselves astern of 
the Bliicher, they could have put up an equal fight 
against our leading battle-cruisers, whilst the Bliicher, 
unfired at, would have kept up a steady 26 to 27 knots. 
We were in harbour for three days, and I had man- 
aged to see my friends in Edinburgh, when we went off 
at i a.m. to do an air raid in the Bight, but the weather 
broke badly and drove us in. 

At the beginning of February 1915 the Nottingham 
and ourselves went to Newcastle to be fitted with 
3-inch aerial guns. 

We enjoyed the fleshpots of Egypt in that city, and 
very nice they were too, for six days, and on the nth 
we were back off Charlestown village. 



BY the beginning of 1915 a distinct change had begun 
to take place in the character of the war in the North 
Sea, at least as regards surface ships. The policy of 
large ships, such as battle-cruisers and battleships, 
cruising about on the chance of seeing something was 
the first thing to be abandoned. Still the light cruisers 
were employed in patrolling " areas " and sweeping 
portions of the North Sea. By the term " sweeping " 
I do not, of course, mean mine-sweeping. 

But it was not long ere this method of using the 
scouting forces of the Grand Fleet fell into disfavour. 
It was evident in the spring of 1915 that ships went to 
sea for three reasons. 

(1) To intercept, or bring to action, blockade runners 

or enemy ships whose presence was known or 

(2) To carry out an offensive operation, in so far as 

the strategical situation ever offered us scope 
for such operations. 

(3) For exercise. 

If none of these three reasons was valid, the ships 
were in harbour. 

Being in harbour did not mean going ashore, for this 
pleasure was only possible, and then as far as light 
cruisers were concerned with many limitations, when 
the ships were at more than two and a half hours' 
notice for steam. 

The policy outlined above as opposed to being at sea, 
on general principles, came into being for the following 



It became obvious that the Germans were not going 
to come out in the North Sea without a very definite 
object in the " operations " line ; and secondly, the 
presence of submarines and mines in the North Sea 
tended to make it an unhealthy place in which to cruise 
for the mere sake of cruising. 

The year 1915 was not marked by an action of any 
size, but a great many operations of various kinds were 
carried out, in most of which, if not in all, the Southamp- 
ton and most of her squadron participated. These 
operations were of three kinds. 

The first kind, known as a " stunt," either good or 
bad, was an operation in which we went over to the 
other side, and in which, from the position of the Fleet 
and the fact that we were at action stations, it required 
no inside knowledge on the part of an observer for him 
to deduce that the powers that be thought that there 
was a sporting chance of meeting something. 

A " stunt " lasted from three to five days, and was 
usually preceded by a " flap " or " panic." 

I hope no one will conjure up a vision of the British 
Navy in a state of nerves because an order had arrived 
ordering us to sea. 

A " panic " was different from that. A typical 
" panic " was something like this. 

The hour would be 9 p.m., the ship at four hours' 
notice ; and everyone at that hour was usually in the 
ward-room engaged in playing cards, talking shop, 
arguing, or perhaps making arrangements to go ashore 
next day. 

This pleasant scene would be interrupted by the 
arrival of a signal boy with a cipher signal for the 
secretary. The latter would at once disappear to 
decipher it. During his absence, the only subject of 
conversation would be, " Is it a flap ? " 

The secretary would return looking very important 
and whisper to the Commander. The latter, catching 

g6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

the air of mystery, would whisper to the Engineer- 
Commander. By this time everyone had guessed we 
were off. The watch-keeping lieutenants would at once 
embark on an acrid dispute as to who, if we weighed 
at i a.m., ought to keep the middle watch. 

The two doctors and the paymaster and his assistant 
would have a similar bicker as to who should keep the 
morning decoding watch. 

Meanwhile on the mess-decks everything was pur- 
poseful confusion. Stokers struggled to get below to 
the boiler rooms. Seamen struggled to get up the 
hatch and fall in on deck. The electric-light party 
scooted about with shaded lights. The gunnery lieu- 
tenant crept about on the forecastle, tripping up over 
cables as he made preparations to weigh. 

The Commander damned everyone impartially, in- 
cluding himself ; this latter effort because he had been 
tempted by the fine night and had not hoisted the 
steam-boat at dusk, and now it had to be hoisted in 
the dark and in a hurry. 

Ready use ammunition stowed below in harbour had 
to be got up. Ah 1 boats had to be secured for sea, 
provisioned, and turned in. 

Probably an official mail had to be sent over to some 
ship that was not going out. 

Berthing rails had to be taken down and life-lines 
rove. The accommodation ladder had to be got in. 
Rumbling noises from aft and the clanging of bells 
indicated that the engineers were trying the steering 
engine and the telegraphs. 

All these things and many others had to be done, 
and done quickly, before the ship could go to sea. 
Hence the term " panic " or " flap." 

Although in theory we were entitled to claim four 
hours' notice if a signal came, " Raise steam with all 
despatch and report when you are ready to proceed," 
we should have felt ashamed of ourselves, and so would 


any other light cruiser, if we were not ready in two 
hours at the outside. 

This ability of the engineers, i.e. to raise steam from 
cold boilers to " full pressure " in half the time they 
were supposed to need, was often a nuisance when a 
" panic " took place in the afternoon and one was 
ashore. I always felt that, instead of having four hours 
up my sleeve, I only had about an hour and a half. 

So much for the " panics " that usually preceded 
" stunts." The second kind of operations, viz. those in 
which we proceeded out to try and get at the inacces- 
sible Hun, were chiefly air-raid parties on the Zepp 
sheds at Tondern, mine-laying parties in the region of 
the Bight, or " lucky dips " into the bran-tub of the 
Skajerack or up the Norwegian coast to try and pick 
up a few Hun patrols and un-neutral shipping. 

Then there were the trips when we went out and 
steered steadily north till we reached the Grand Fleet's 
front garden, between the Shetlands, Iceland, and the 
grim Norwegian coast deep cut with fjords and dented 
by the eternal succession of Atlantic gales. Here, 
beneath the lace light of the Northern Lights, we 
P.Z'ded, and did other tactical exercises, playing with 
our big brothers the battleships and coming under the 
critical eye of J. J. in the Iron Duke. 

Here we dropped targets and scouted around on the 
lookout for stray submarines, whilst the thunder of 13-5- 
inch and 12-inch broadsides rolled round the horizon. 

There was a fascination about those northern lati- 
tudes which to me remained ever great. It seemed 
always either wonderfully calm or monstrously rough. 

When it was calm and clear, the visibility was wonder- 
ful. The air was clean and cool like mountain water, 
the sea was leaden coloured and lifeless, generally 
wrinkled by a gentle wind that seemed to flow along 
breathing the spirit of the North the spirit of great 
open spaces, of monotonous desolation, of the top of the 

98 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

world. The loneliness of it all was fascinating. At 
night the stars shone with a purity I had never seen 
before they were like fine diamonds on black velvet 
and round the semicircle from east through north to 
west the Northern Lights rose and fell, flickered and 
flamed, and wove strange patterns in space. 

I realize just a little why men risk death at the two 
ends of the earth, and having been spared once, go again 
and again to serve this mistress, whose arms are the ice 
and whose breast is the snow. 

And when it was rough, it blew with the violence of 
despair. Rain squalls, snow squalls, and banks of fog 
succeeded each other like waves of attacking infantry. 
The long North Atlantic rollers swept round from New- 
foundland to hurl themselves in a cataract of foam on 
the rock-bound coasts of the Northern Isles ; others, 
passing to the north, spent their forces on the Lofoten 
Islands and the Norge coast. 

I hated rough weather, I hated the sickening, never- 
ending alternation between the roll and the pitch, 
though when I was alone on the bridge and had settled 
down, wedged between the compass and the bridge 
screen for a four-hour watch, there came a feeling of 
exultation in watching the waves break on to the fore- 
castle, and then to feel the little ship lift her bows and 
throw a hundred tons of Atlantic whence it came. It 
was good to feel in charge of the handiwork of man 
that could defy such weather. 

Then, in addition to these trips there were many odd 
jobs that fell to the lot of the light cruiser. Chief and 
most hated of these was a thing called the D.N.P. 
those letters stood for Dark Night Patrol. Every night 
when there was no moon a light cruiser and two 
destroyers left Rosyth two hours before sunset and 
cruised out to the eastward of the May Island, and re- 
turned to coal two hours after sunrise. 


This was to guard against mine-laying off the port. 
How many Battle-cruiser Force and Light-cruiser folk 
have not joined me in singing 

" So blow up your Giever ! Come fill up your flask ! 
You've had time for luncheon, what more do ye ask ? 
So open the Outer Gate, let us gae free, 
The signal is flying, ' Light Cruisers to Sea.' " 

Most boring and hateful of all operations was the 
D.N.P. When London cursed the moon, we blessed it. 
To quote in detail and enumerate all the trips we 
made in 1915 would be a monotonous business, and I 
have no record of many, as so often they were devoid 
of all interest one simply remembered " it blew " or " it 
didn't blow " ; but I kept a few rough notes of some of 
these trips, and I will quote a little from them. 

" Feb. 18, 1915. At sea with destroyers ; we saw 
nothing, and returned to base on 2ist coaled ship 500 
tons and averaged 162 per hour, which was good. 

" We have now become the Second Light Cruiser 
Squadron ; the new First Light Cruiser Squadron are 
Galatea, Inconstant, Cordelia, etc. 

" Feb. 27, 1915. His Majesty the King paid the port 
a surprise visit. We were one of the ships honoured, 
and all the officers were presented to His Majesty. 

" Feb. 28, 1915. I shipped my second stripe a great 

" March 3, 1915. All the Battle-cruiser Squadron, 
First, Second, and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons, went 
out and did several days' combined exercises in very 
unpleasant weather. We saw and destroyed some 
floating mines. On our way in, we coincided with a 
submarine, and the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla went out 
to hunt him. 

" At i p.m. on the I2th we heard the Ariel had bagged 
U.I2 outside. 

" March 25, 1915. Up at Scapa for gunnery and 


torpedo exercises. As a place to sojourn in, with its 
absolute lack of civilization, barren scenery, and wind- 
swept aspect, it is, in my opinion, ' the limit.' 

" When I compare it with our pleasant existence at 
Charlestown the contrast is striking. However, the 
fellows in the Battle Fleet get accustomed to living on 
board, and never trouble to go ashore for months at a 
time, and some of them speak of Scapa with affection 
as being a nice quiet place. 

" March 27, 1915. At 7 a.m. I went away in a 
drifter in charge of a large target which cavorted about 
astern. We crawled out into the middle of the Flow. 
It was raining hard and there was a choppy sea most 
unpleasant. The climax came at half -past ten, when 
the target capsized just as the ship was going to open 

" We were ordered to approach the ship. A painful 
scene ensued as the commander, about three lieutenants, 
and a couple of hundred men wrestled with the capsized 
target alongside the ship. I was vigorously damned 

" (a) The target had capsized. 

" (6) I was slow getting back. 

' (c) I couldn't get the drifter to perform the im- 
possibility of remaining broadside on to the 
sea and wind. 

" (d) Because I was an adjectival young fool. 

" Anyone who has been away with a large target and 
had trouble and does one ever not have trouble ? 
will know exactly what I mean. However, the only 
thing to do is to sing out ' Aye ! Aye ! sir ' at regular 
intervals and endeavour to look worried. 

" In the afternoon there was a ' panic/ and the whole 
Fleet went out in a hurry. At 4 a.m., when I went on 
the bridge, the stunt had fizzled out, and we returned 
to Scapa at 7 a.m. and coaled in a heavy snowstorm. 

" April i, 1915. Left Scapa and rattled down to 


Rosyth at 20 knots. Very pleasant getting to our 
proper base again. 

" April 5, 1915. Proceeded to our old stamping- 
ground. As soon as we got to the exercise ground, a 
gale started. Various intercepted wireless messages 
revealed that the ' Wobbly Eights ' and ' Sea Cows ' 
(Third Battle Squadron and Third Cruiser Squadron) 
were staggering in again, as weather was so bad. 

" We waited in vain for a signal that light cruisers 
could return. We were required for screening the 

" We spent most of our time plunging into it at 20 
knots to get into station on big brutes of battle-cruisers 
doing 17 knots and going through the sea like sub- 
merged rocks. I believe their bridges are so high up 
that they are too far off to see how rough it is. We are 
low enough to feel it when a wave-top hops from the 
forecastle up to the fore-bridge. 

" The gale blew out in the night, and next day was 
spent in going farther north. That night we spread out 
in wide lines between Norway and the Shetlands and 
did night firing. 

" A tramp steamer bound for America foolishly 
crossed the line of fire, and a few shells whistled harm- 
lessly over her. [Hence the tale a fortnight later of a great 
battle in the North Sea, and accounts in the German 
Press of the British Fleet firing into each other at night.] 

" Early in the morning we started south. One of our 
armed liners made a fool of herself by sending a wireless 
message to say she was being chased west by a large 
ship. Two of our squadron were detailed off to go and 
help her, and they turned north again. 

" Daylight dawned, and they were well on their way 
to the North Pole, having seen nothing, when it trans- 
pired that the ' large strange ship ' was the New York 
to Bergen mail-steamer. We did another P.Z., and at 
noon received orders to return to base. 

IO2 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" It at once began to blow like Hades, and we got back 
at i a.m. in the teeth of a westerly gale on gih April. 

" We should not mind a week's rest. No such luck. 
They say there is no rest for the wicked, and I think the 
Battle-cruiser Force must be very sinful, for to-day, 
nth April, 1915, we are out again, having left for the 
East at 10 p.m. 

" April 14, 1915. A glorious day. We are zig- 
zagging along at 28 knots, and are due to reach May 
Island at 3 a.m. 

" On leaving May Island on I2th at 2 a.m. we steered 
due east until we were two-thirds of the way across to 

" We had hopes of something happening, as one 
always did have when the war was young and we 
thought the Germans had enterprise. 

" The first day out we remained in touch with the 
battle-cruisers, and we all hoped that dawn would find 
us at action stations. Nothing of the sort, for we 
steamed about in glorious weather at 20 knots, with full 
speed at one hour's notice. 

" The bureaux were baffled." 

Perhaps a few words as to what Les Bureaux were 
would not be out of place. 

This was a war-time amusement, played by the 
engineer commander, the torpedo lieutenant, the gun- 
nery lieutenant, the engineer lieutenant, and the sub 
and myself, on one side ; the secretary, the flag com- 
mander, and the flag lieutenant, on the other side. We 
represented Les Bureaux; they were the Mystery 

My bureau, known as the Q Bureau, was by universal 
consent the oldest established and most efficient, and 
was considered to compare very favourably with the 
infamous Wolff Bureau. 

The object of the bureaux was to combat undue 


secrecy on the part of the Mystery Priests, and our 
motto was " L 'Union fait la force " ; that is to say, each 
bureau, working separately, collected little bits of 
evidence, and then, at a general meeting, those isolated 
facts were pieced together. Having got a story 
together, the next move in the game was to announce 
in the Mess, in the presence of one or more of the 
Mystery Priests, that the Q Bureau begged to 
announce to all subscribers that the XYZ Squadron 
having returned to base through bad weather, the con- 
templated operation was off, and it was estimated 
we should return to base at 6 p.m. We became very 
expert at partly guessing and partly deducing the 
affairs of the day, and we were thus able to pull the legs 
of the priests with much success. 

As the war proceeded, all the useless secrecy was 
dropped, and it was realized that once the ship was at 
sea it was quite safe to explain to officers why she was 
there and when she would get back, and so the bureaux 
died a natural death. 

On this particular stunt of which I am writing the 
bureaux were baffled. Ah 1 attempts to pump the 
Mystery Priests were in vain, until the Q Bureau 
evolved the startling theory that the mystery men 
themselves did not know why we were out. 

They made a brave effort to conceal their ignorance, 
but on the second day out they broke down entirely and 
admitted frankly that they had not got the slightest 
idea as to why we were out. The strange spectacle was 
then seen of the men of mystery and the bureaux sitting 
together in the smoking-room, engaged in continuous 
speculative discussions. 

On the third day out we caught a far-off glimpse of 
the serried lines of the Battle Fleet. Also on this day 
submarines began to be reported round us, one being 
seen by the Roxburgh and one by the Lion, though 
when I looked up the signalled position of this latter 

104 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Fritz, I remembered that we had passed through a shoal 
of porpoises about an hour previously on that spot. 

" April 22, 1915. Prepared for sea in the dog- 
watches, and every indication of going out. 

" Met old Secret Harry (Secret-ary) and hazarded 
opinion that departure was imminent. True to the 
traditions of his race, he endeavoured to deny this. 

" I then told him that as all the stokers had just been 
ordered below and were raising steam as hard as they 
could, I imagined this was to practise them in shovelling, 
on the same principle as loading drill for a gun's crew. 
He got quite peevish, so we had a drink together and 
then laboured amicably on the next number of the 
Southampton Echo, vol. ii. 

" Slipped out at 9.15 p.m. ; went over towards Horns 
Reef in beautiful weather ; passed through the usual 
line of Dutch trawlers, and kept a sharp lookout for 
pigeons. We all suspect this party ; they always seem 
to be fishing in a patrol line across the approaches to 
the Bight. 

" April 23, 1915. Passed a Norwegian sailing-ship 
burning furiously ; she had evidently been caught by a 
Fritz a few hours previously. We saw no sign of any 
survivors or Fritzes. 

" Did a P.Z. and returned home. 

" April 24, 1915. Amazing day ! We've been 
given twenty-four hours' stand off. The engineers are 
delighted, as we have done 5,000 miles at high speed 
this month. 

" S. A. and myself push-biked to Loch Leven, and 
we gorged with trout from the lake. It was delicious 
getting away from the war. 

" May 6, 1915. Back at Rosyth. We have been lying 
for days at two and a half hours' notice, which means 
that one can land for an hour or so in sight of the ship. 

" May 31, 1915. The whole party went to sea a 
dud stunt. 


" June 1915. Our squadron have had a slightly 
unpleasant job during this month. We have been 
going out in groups of two light cruisers to do it. 

" There is a big minefield in the middle of the North 
Sea that our little sweepers from Aberdeen are sweeping. 

" We go out and guard them by cruising about 
between them and the Bight. I always felt how very 
uncomfortable I should be if a couple of German battle- 
cruisers popped up over the southern horizon. 

" After three days the sweeping gunboats returned to 
coal. The poor little devils looked singularly helpless 
toddling back at 12 knots, whilst we kicked off to our 
base at 22. 

" Also during this month we went up to the extreme 
north and played with the Grand Fleet. It was prac- 
tically broad daylight at midnight, but the temperature 
fell to 40 F. 

" When we got back from the expedition, two of our 
squadron the Nottingham and Birmingham and the 
' Sea Cows ' (Third Cruiser Squadron) went over to try 
and catch an armed German steamer called the Meteor, 
which has had the cheek to prey on commerce off the 

" Our party seems to have ' bought it/ as when they 
got over there the place was a kind of congeries of U.- 
boats, torpedoes, and periscopes all over the place. The 
Roxburgh was hit once, and would have been hit three 
times had she not been splendidly handled. As far as 
I can make out, every ship had at least one torpedo 
fired at her. 

" The Roxburgh was hit right forward, and the bot- 
tom of her cable locker more or less disappeared. This 
might have led to a very awkward situation, as the 
inboard end of 15 shackles (about 400 yards) of cable 
might have fallen out through the hole. This would 
practically have anchored the ship through her keel ! 
I understand that with great foresight her commander 

IO6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

had foreseen this contingency, and he had caused the 
cable to be unshackled so that the whole lot could fall 
out harmlessly. 

" From this day onwards we are always going to 
arrange ours like that ! It would be too fearful to be 
helplessly anchored whilst a Fritz potted the ship. 

" The Roxburgh got in safely at 14 knots. Altogether 
a disappointing day for the party from the Hunneries, 
and a lucky one for us. 

" June 25, 1915. The Commander suddenly decided 
to inaugurate a spit and polish campaign. 

" I thought he had been looking bored. He chased 
all the lieutenants quite in his peace-time manner, in 
fact more so, as this pastime had regained its novelty 
for him. 

" We talked frightful mutiny every evening in one 
of our cabins, and made arrangements to avoid being 
hunted. However, he is diabolically clever at getting 
at us a trait we rather admire. 

" Various dull trips, and about the end of July battle- 
cruisers and light cruisers made a sweep over to Skaje- 
rack to bag German patrol trawlers. Unfortunately 
the weather broke as soon as we got over, and whilst the 
First Light Cruiser Squadron (Commodore Sinclair) and 
destroyers dashed into the Skajerack snorting defiance, 
we cruised on the Naze-Hantshohn line in case the 
German battle-cruisers came round from the Hunneries 
by the Horns Reef route. 

" The Huns, like sensible fellows, had decided that it 
was no weather for gentlemen, and stayed at home. 

" The First Light Cruiser Squadron got one patrol 
boat. The survivors expressed great pleasure at being 
captured, as they were due to be called up for the 
Landsturm in September. They said that the other 
thirty-nine patrol boats had gone in owing to bad 

" And so back to base very sea-sick." 



"AUGUST 8, 1915. Real old-fashioned 'flap' last 
night, as a ' raise steam with all despatch ' arrived at 
9 p.m. just as I was doing good business at a game of 
chance in the mess. 

"At 12 midnight, crowds of destroyers came down 
the river and got well mixed up with us just as the 
squadron was weighing. 

" Wonderful language floated about through mega- 
phone. First Light Cruiser Squadron and ourselves 
got clear of Rosyth at i a.m. 

" It appears that our old friend the Meteor, fitted as 
a mine-layer, and supposed to be capable of only 14 
knots, has ambled over to Kinnaird Head, sunk an 
armed boarding steamer called the Ramsey, and laid a 
minefield off Cromarty. 

" We are off to catch her. 

" The tea-party consists of Commodore (T ) and 

destroyers from Harwich, First Light Cruiser Squadron 
and ourselves from Rosyth, and the Royalist and Co. 
from Scapa. 

" August 9. We all dashed across the North Sea, 
converging on Heligoland, and at 5 p.m. we were very 
annoyed to receive a W/T signal from Whitehall to say 
that if we had not found her we were to go back, as we 
were then getting fairly close to the Bight and none of 
our heavy ships were out with us. Fortunately at this 
moment the Arethusa sighted the Meteor, which ship 
blew herself up, the Huns escaping in a trawler. The 
appearance of a Zepp and his proximity to the Hunneries 


108 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

decided Commodore (T ) not to waste time trying 

to chase the Huns, who were making off in the trawler. 

" The Huns behaved very well to the survivors of the 
Ramsey whom they had on board, as before abandon- 
ing the Meteor they gave them some money and placed 
them in a Swedish trawler. 

" I understand the Commander-in-Chief is causing 
this money to be returned to the German officer con- 
cerned, through a neutral embassy. 

" August 17. Up at lat. 64 N. doing a shooting 
party with the battle-cruisers. 

" August 21. We arrived at Scapa to pass the time 
of the day with the Grand Fleet. 

" On the way on to Scapa I was on watch and was 
suddenly filled with a feeling that a man would fall 
overboard at a certain place I could see ahead. 

" I ordered everyone off the forecastle, where some 
hands were getting the anchors ready, and told the 
people on the bridge to have lifebuoys ready. This 
behaviour on my part made the navigator look at 
me and say, ' What on earth's the matter with 
you ? ' 

" I felt I couldn't explain, and still less when we 
passed the place and nothing happened. I felt an ass ; 
but a minute or two later the next two ships astern of 
us each lost one man overboard as they passed the 

" Then I explained my actions. I have only once 
had a similar experience, as I ' felt ' Jutland, only not 
nearly so strongly. 

" The War spite and other new arrivals were there. 
The weather here is beastly rain and drifting mist. 

" Sept. 13, 1915. On our arrival back at Rosyth 
after a rough passage in which we had to make a large 
detour to the eastwards to avoid minefields, we found 
the atmosphere distinctly electric, as we were frequently 
at short notice for considerable periods. 


" We also went out to search for a somewhat mythical 
mine-layer though another theory popular in the 
smoking-room was that we were sent to sea to impress 
the idea of ceaseless naval activity upon a party of 
distinguished Frenchmen who were in the port, for we 
went out in daylight under their noses and the Third 
Light Cruiser Squadron came in at the same time ; 
they had been out only twelve hours after a stay in 
harbour of several weeks. 

" Sept. 26. Last week we all went out on a job of 
work. At the last moment, just as the squadron was 
sailing, we developed a leaky condenser, so the Com- 
modore and staff were hastily transferred to the 
Birmingham. We were all right by 7.30 a.m., and by 
steaming hard we caught up the Battle-cruiser Force 
at 5 p.m. Next day we were all in a position 40 miles 
or so north-by-west of Horns Reef at 3 a.m. To the 
south-eastward of us we could see the Harwich forces of 
light cruisers and destroyers, and inside them were 
several of our large mine-layers, who were engaged in 
laying a large field to harass German submarines going 
to and from the Bight. 

' To our astonishment and pleasure we were not seen 
by Zepps ; it was such a lovely morning we felt certain 
one or two would be out, but everything was very quiet, 
and at 5 a.m. we all came home fairly certain and rather 
surprised that we had laid our mines unobserved. We 
had perfect weather for the trip." 

I suppose it is a very fine sight to see the Battle- 
cruiser Fleet at sea on a clear day. I have seen it so 
often that it tends to become commonplace, but I will 
describe what it looked like from our bridge on the 
last trip. 

It was thus 

Eight miles away from us, and on our port quarter, 
seven battle-cruisers were silhouetted against the sky. 
From each of these great ships a graceful plume of 

110 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

smoke rose like a dusky feather. As they zig-zagged 
about once every ten minutes, the sunlight reflected on 
their sides, and they appeared to change colour as they 
altered course. 

On one tack they gleamed bright and silvery, on the 
other tack they appeared as if painted black. A stab 
of white rising up their rams, and a blob of white in 
their wakes, contrasted vividly with the deep blue of the 
sea and sky, and was an indication to the trained eye 
that these ships were moving at more than 20 knots. 

They moved in two lines, and at the head of each line 
and around each line were dotted small black smudges 
which appeared to be stationary relative to the battle- 
cruisers. From these black smudges a puff of smoke 
occasionally shot up into the air. These smudges were 
the destroyers of the submarine screen. 

All oil-fuel boats, they were normally smokeless, the 
intermittent puffs indicating momentary carelessness 
on the part of a stoker manipulating the air-inlet baffle- 
plates on their boilers. Turning to ourselves, the ever- 
faithful Birmingham (Captain Duff) zig-zagged in our 
wake about 400 to 600 yards away. Through glasses I 
could see the familiar figures on her bridge. 

Five miles away on our starboard beam the Notting- 
ham and Lowestoft formed a little group, completing 
our squadron and rounding off the starboard end of the 
light-cruiser screen which protected the battle-cruisers 
from surprise. 

Five and 10 miles away on the port beam were two 
similar units of the Third Light Cruiser Squadron, 
delicately outlined in pearl-grey. 

Fifteen miles away I could just detect the raking 
masts of two light cruisers of the First Light Cruiser 
Squadron, whose hulls were below the horizon. 

I know that 20 and 25 miles away along the imagin- 
ary line were other light cruisers. 

Thus we moved along. 


At intervals a flash of light would start winking on 
the Lion, to be repeated to the right and left by the 
Chatham, the centre light cruiser. As soon as we had 
all got the signal, the Lion would wink with her search- 
light for ten seconds and the signal to alter course and 
speed would be obeyed. 

When it grew dusk, the light cruisers closed in and 
became three lines, each ship following the pale blue 
stern light and shadowy form of the next ahead. 

At dawn the three lines opened out like a fan and 
the screen was respread. 

Such was the British Cruiser Force at sea. 

" October. Returned from a fruitless stunt ; had 
rather a job getting out of the base for this trip." 

Getting out of Rosyth at night is no pleasure trip for 
navigators nor is getting in. 

The shape of the harbour renders it obligatory for 
ships at the western end who wish to get out, to 
thread their way between the lines of battleships (King 
Edward VII class) and battle-cruisers. The battle- 
cruisers have bought up the eastern end of the harbour 
and are as close to Queensferry as they can get. The 
" Behemoths " (Third Battle Squadron) and " Sea 
Cows " (Third Cruiser Squadron) occupy the centre 
position, then come two lines of light cruisers. 

Lastly, away at Bo 'ness, amidst a welter of colliers, 
store-ships, oil-tankers, provision ships, and other 
Fleet auxiliaries, lie the bulk of the destroyers ; the 
emergency boats lie at instant notice at buoys near the 

When the destroyers are coming out with us, they 
frequently stop amongst our squadron just as we are 
shortening in. We then send them their operation 
orders in a borrowed motor-boat, as of course all our 
own boats are hoisted, turned in, and secured for sea. 

Last time we did this the proceedings were very 
typical of what happens. 

112 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Imagine a pitch-dark night, raining persistently and 
with maddening Scotch penetration. Our four cruisers, 
without lights, were just aweigh, and struggling to get 
into line for leaving harbour. Suddenly four destroyers 
arrived on the scene, going about 10 knots, and 
apparently under the impression that we were about a 
mile farther down the harbour. 

Much shouting through megaphones as they all go 
full speed astern, only to lie inert about 30 yards off 
our slowly moving ram. A galaxy of signalling, 
megaphoning, bad language, and narrow shaves. 

During this performance the Galatea's motor-boat, of 
which we had the loan, was twisting and turning like a 
snipe amongst the moving ships in an endeavour to 
deliver his despatches. He had left the Galatea in such 
a hurry that the coxswain had left his navigation lights 
behind him, and, fearful of being run down, he was 
making a continuous screeching noise in his Klaxon 

It was like a cock-pheasant gone mad. 

We got into line and fox-trotted down the harbour, 
in and out between the big ships. Smoothly we passed 
under the bridge and counted our chickens (three 
cruisers and four destroyers all correct) as we ap- 
proached the outer gate in the first boom, which was 
just opening to allow a destroyer in. 

To avoid all misunderstandings, for destroyers at 
night are kittle cattle, we switched on our navigation 
lights for a few seconds. 

Then we led our line through the narrow opening. 
As we increased to 20 knots, the shore lights of Leith 
and the Fife coast slid past in a long procession, a 
breeze sprang up from the north-east and chilled the 
cheek, the lookouts crouched down behind the bridge- 
screens, and the guns' crews huddled into the gun- 

May Island winked its last farewell to us and, with 


the spray lightly showering on to our forecastle and a 
bright phosphorescent wake astern, we passed out into 
the North Sea the sea of derelicts, mines, strangely 
painted neutrals, submarines, and the monotony of 
naval war. 

Soon after this trip we went to Newcastle to refit, 
and we were given ten days' leave. 

After a glowing account of London, I noted that 

" The leave, alas ! soon came to an end. We had a 
stormy trip from Newcastle to Rosyth, and it shook our 
beach-accustomed insides very unpleasantly. Once 
back at Rosyth the old routine soon gripped us, the 
accursed dark night patrol idea going full bore." 

A quiet month followed, during which the Argyll 
was lost on the Bell Rock and we ourselves had a small 
adventure coming in from a sweep. 

It was a thick night, and we were steaming 20 knots. 
At 9 p.m. we knew that we must be somewhere near 
the entrance, but as owing to bad weather the navigator 
had not been able to get any sights for forty-eight 
hours, we were a bit vague as to our exact position. 

We were anxiously looking in every direction for the 
very feeble " war-light " which it was the habit of May 
Island to show, when without any warning a series of 
calcium lights went up all round us. 

We had got right inside May Island, which is plumb 
in the middle of the entrance to the Firth of Forth, 
without noticing it, and then we had crashed right 
through the indicator nets of the submarine defences. 
This incident, together with the Argyll fetching up on 
the unlighted Bell Rock, led to a revision of the system 
of war-lighting in the Forth, and on future occasions 
when ships were expected May Island's full-power beam 
swept the horizon with its cheering light. 

In November we made a sweep over to the Nor- 

114 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

wegian coast, amongst other trips, and eventually 
arrived at Scapa. 

Our first two days there were marked by a gale of 
typical Orcadian violence. The Flow was a smother of 
white foam, and the wind howled furiously from the 
north-west. Then the weather suddenly changed and 
became delightful : during the days we did our gunnery 
exercises, and in the evenings we dined with our friends 
in the battleships. 

I went on board the Iron Duke and had dinner with 
a friend, after which there was a sing-song in the ward- 
room, which the C.-in-C. and all his staff attended. 

I looked in at the telegraph office in the Iron Duke, 
which was in two sections. Section I was connected 
directly to the Admiralty, and whilst I was there a 
continuous stream of messages were passing both ways 
at the rate of seventy words a minute. Section II 
could be connected by relays to any place in the 
British Isles. 

On Thursday, the i8th November, we were due to 
sail for Rosyth. We sailed, but hardly in the antici- 
pated direction. I will quote my notes 

" By 5 p.m. that night we were bursting north-by- 
east at 20 knots. 

" It appears that the somewhat ancient German 
cruiser Freya has been sighted steering north through 
the Sound, probably by one of our submarines. I 
cannot imagine what she is supposed to be doing, but 
at all events here we are at 9 a.m. on the 2oth Novem- 
ber patrolling a very rough, cold grey sea about 200 
miles inside the Arctic Circle, viz. 68 50' N. 13 E. 
This is indeed a charming spot, for this morning the sun 
rose at 10.5 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, and set at 
11.55 a.m. 

' ' Actually there are about five hours of grey, depress- 
ing twilight between total darkness ' a.m.' and ' p.m.' 
Nothing more has been heard of our friend. The gale 


is getting worse, and I have been sea-sick not once but 
several times the motion is abominable. 

" Oh, why on earth didn't I join the army ! 

" We do not know how long we are to stay in this 
howling wilderness, but the engineers talk hopefully of 
coal running out soon. 

" Heaven help the Freya if we do meet her I do not 
feel that I could waste a second picking up Huns. 

" Sunday, 21. We are laboriously staggering back at 
12 knots in the teeth of a south-west gale. I had the 
forenoon watch : it was most unpleasant. There is no 
news of the Freya at all ; I should say she is back at 
Kiel if the Huns have any sense only maniacs and 
British sailors go to sea in this weather. 

" Overhead it's dull grey, broken only by the never- 
ending procession of low clouds which scoot along from 
south-west to north-east. This morning, when I was 
on watch, with monotonous regularity we dipped our 
forecastle right into the seas, and then the splendid little 
ship lifted up her bows, a mass of seething foam which 
rushed aft and broke against the conning-tower ; the 
wind caught it and flung it upward and aft, so that it 
fell in sheets on the upper bridge. 

" One blinked one's eyes to get rid of the stinging 
salt, and then another one came. Damnably cold into 
the bargain, and the feet like blocks of ice. 

" At ii a.m. the submarine lookout excitedly re- 
ported a periscope on the beam. 

" A block of ice in the infernal regions seemed as 
likely a possibility. I could see nothing, and could do 

" Curse the ship, how she rolls and pitches ! I can 
hardly write. And yet, though I hate it, I like it. 
Dashed funny thing the sea ! 

" The rest of the squadron are lost. In this thick 
weather one can see about a mile in the spindrift, 
spume, and general dirtiness. 

Il6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" We are now about 700 miles from home. 

" Well, I'm going to get my head down till 4.30 p.m. 
Thank goodness, I have not been sea-sick to-day. 
Yesterday I was sea-sick eight times most mono- 
tonous ! 

" Roll on ! Creak on ! Play pitch-and-toss to your 
heart's content, my little ship. I don't care if it snows 
ink between now and 4 p.m., and if Number I is feeling 
strong he will keep the first dog-watch, and I shall not 
be on your ' demned damp bridge ' till midnight." 

The day after that on which I scribbled the above 
lines found the Second Light Cruiser Squadron in a 
poor way. We had been for three days without a sight 
of any sort, or a glimpse of sun or stars ; and all this 
while we had been struggling with the gale. 

The nature of our mission decreed that we should 
remain spread at night, so as to cover the maximum 
amount of frontage. The result of this was, that when 
it became intensely thick we quite lost touch with the 
other three ships of the squadron. We could hear them 
wailing piteously on short-distance wireless, and we 
knew from the strength of the signals that they must 
be within a radius of about 40 miles. 

But which way ? North south east or west ? 

We ordered the squadron to try and close the South- 
ampton. Poor devils ! they no more knew our relative 
or our correct geographical position than we did theirs. 

The Birmingham wirelessed her estimated latitude 
and longitude. It happened to coincide exactly with 
our estimated position which, as Euclid would doubt- 
less have said " was absurd," as by the strength of her 
signals we put her about 20 miles off. Eventually we 
made a signal to the squadron, which told them to 
proceed independently. 

The Lowestoft and Nottingham hit off the Shetlands, 
and proceeded down the eastern coasts thereof. 


We shaped a course which we fondly hoped would 
lead us to Sumburgh Head (the south point of the Shet- 
lands). At 4 a.m. we were saddened by seeing Muckle 
Flugga (the northern point of the Shetlands) loom out 
of the haze. 

We coasted down the Shetlands, and picked up the 
Notts and Lowestoft off Fair Island, where some mon- 
strous seas were running through the Fair Island 

The Birmingham missed the Shetlands, and passing 
" north about " boomed off south-west into the 
Atlantic on a course which in time would have taken 
them to Mexico. After a few hours they smelt a rat, 
and altered course south-easterly, and luckily heard the 
Fair Island fog and mist signal. They came through 
the Fair Island Channel and joined us. 

At 6 p.m. we reached Scapa united once more. All 
next day we were coaling, and at 6 p.m. we left for 

A fresh gale was blowing from the north ; but we 
rather liked it, as it boosted us along in great style, and 
we got back to Rosyth on the 24th November at 8 a.m. 
It would be incorrect to say that when we received 
orders to sail with the whole Battle-cruiser Force on 
the 28th, that we were pleased. 

What irritated us was the reason for sailing. 

It was for exercises and for the purpose of giving the 
battle-cruisers a blow through and a shake up, as Sir 
David had not taken them out for several weeks. As 
part of the Battle-cruiser Force we had to go as well. 
We all went up to the region of 62 N. eastward of the 
Shetlands, and, as we expected, met a gale. We rolled 
along all one day like a hog in its sty. I was feeling 
very sea-sick that morning, and I had kept the first 
watch during the night. 

I see from my diary that we altered course beam on 
to the sea at 7.30 a.m., just as I was called to get up 

Il8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

and go on watch for the forenoon. I lay in my bunk 
and watched my cabin wrecked twice, with absolute 

First, every book I had not carefully stowed away 
slid gracefully to the deck. Tins of tobacco, cigarettes, 
pipes, photos, etc., followed suit. 

I watched these dispassionately unmoved cynic- 

My pet pair of binoculars jumped off a hook. Their 
fate left me cold. 

My servant came in and stowed everything away in 
what he imagined to be safe positions. Five minutes 
later she gave a tremendous roll of about 40 perhaps 
more. Everything that wasn't on the deck crashed 
thereunto. With the disinterested gaze of sea-sick 
philosophy I watched my household goods surge back- 
wards and forwards across the floor. 

At ten minutes to eight, fearing to miss breakfast, I 
forced myself to get up, and noted with utter indiffer- 
ence that a large bottle of hair-wash had fallen and 
broken into my wash-basin, and that the photograph 
of photographs was floating in the mess. For the 
moment I had ceased to love her. 

I hurriedly pulled on sweaters and jerseys, and clam- 
bered on to the upper deck. A playful sea flopped into 
the ship, and filled up my sea-boots. 

Quite slowly and contemptuously I was sea-sick. 
Somewhat strengthened, I went below and consumed 
two indifferent eggs. 

At 8.30 a.m. I was once more on that hated but 
fascinating forebridge. Three steps one way, two 
steps the other. 

On our return from this trip we were all rather tired, 
as we had done over 5,000 miles in bad weather in 
seventeen days. 

We had a very quiet time, and Christmas Day in 


The Third Light Cruiser Squadron were at sea on the 
25th December, and struck a very hot gale. We 
smiled, and drank their health at dinner. 

Our three weeks' rest was all the pleasanter, in that 
during this period it blew with amazing pertinacity. 

It was with no surprise that on the 5th January we 
went out to our old northern ground and did three days' 
exercises in bad weather. Various other sweeps, 
mostly in bad weather, ensued, and once, on the loth of 
February, when we were out, we very nearly had an 

Unfortunately the German Battle-cruiser Force, 
which was out, and thought to be coming over a certain 
distance, had some destroyers ahead of it who en- 
countered the Tenth Squadron of sloops, who were 
sweeping off the North Dogger. 

They sank the Aramis, and, I suppose, fearing this 
would give a general alarm, they abandoned whatever 
they had in hand and went back to the Hunneries. 
We were probably nearer to them than they thought 
a few more hours and we might have bagged them. 

" March 3, 1916. A dull sweep. 

" March 12, 1916. At sea in wretched weather 
everything seems wet, the only bright spot in life is 
afforded by the misfortune of the sub, who came down 
off watch to find his cabin flooded out, with 6 inches of 
water in all his drawers. 

" To-morrow will be our fifteenth coaling in thirty- 
nine days. 

" Query Shall I join the Coal-miners' Union ? " 

We had another trip, a few days later, which took us 
over to the Skajerack, and during this trip the sub and 
I, who were on watch together during the middle, were 
startled by a tremendous crash of some heavy body 
falling between us. 

We struck a match and discovered a slab of ice about 
the size of a paving-stone. This billet de glace had been 

120 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

forming on top of the fore-control, whence it had slid 
off and fallen 50 feet, missing us both by a few inches. 

I at once appropriated the large brass binnacle cover 
of the compass, which I put on after the fashion of a 
gigantic and toadstool-like helmet ; after the famous 
precedent created by Commander, now Captain E., in 
the action when four German torpedo-boats were sunk 
off Terschelling. 

The sub protested that he had nothing. 

I was obliged to point out officially that a two-striped 
officer was worth not twice but, at a modest estimate, 
three times as much to England as a one-striped sub. 
He disagreed, and there was a coolness between us 
until the arrival of the 2-a.m. cocoa. 

After this the weather ceased to be of the " galey " 
variety and became very foggy and damp. 

The chief bosun's mate, who used to unburden him- 
self to me whilst the hands were scrubbing decks when 
I had the morning watch, beat an enormous chest with 
a huge fist, and trying to wheeze, said 

" Ah, you 'as to 'ave the lungs of a helephant to stand 
this 'ere weather ; it's like a young piece of skirt, it's 
that contrary." 

During the next few months we had a good many 
trips of various kinds, including an attempted air raid 
on the German coast, and a Zeppelin raid on Edinburgh. 
We had the annoyance of hearing them nipping back to 
their homes, 10,000 feet above us, for we were at sea off 
St. Abb's Head. In the west, a huge conflagration at 
Leith indicated the fate of much good whisky, ignited 
by an incendiary bomb. 

It would have rejoiced the hearts of the Liquor Con- 
trol Board to see this oblation to the gods of Tem- 

We went up to Scapa and came back to Rosyth. 
Jutland was getting near. 



I HAVE tried to describe in the last two chapters what 
the ordinary business of war was like. 

We were soon destined to pass through the fires of 
battle the ultimate object of fleets and armies, the 
climax of sustained effort and of preparation. 

Before passing to an account of what happened to us 
at Jutland, there is another side of naval life which 
deserves a few words. 

The British do not make war sadly, and whenever we 
could, we got as much fun out of life as possible. 

I would like to write a little of what we did when we 
were not at sea. For at sea, life was so delightfully 
simple ; of two things, one was certain either I was 
on watch or I was not. 

If I was not on watch, of two things, one either 
sleeping or eating. 

Could anything be simpler or more elemental ? 

In harbour it was more complicated, though here 
again, of two things, one was certain. The ship was 
either at short notice or at long notice. 

If she was at long notice, i.e. over two-and-a-half 
hours' notice (but never more than four), then it was 
possible to go ashore. 

If she was at short notice, there was no leave. 

And that was that. 

Ashore meant walks within a radius of three or four 
miles of the pier at Charlestown, or visits to Dunferm- 
line by the Charlestown express. For the sum of " sax- 
pence," at infrequent intervals, I used to drive the 
engine of the aforesaid express. 

122 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Dunfermline is chiefly notable for the fact that it was 
the capital of Scotland till Princes Street came into its 
own, and also for the fact that Andrew Carnegie was 
born in a small house on the hill. 

Thanks to this latter fact, Dunfermline possesses a 
beautiful park, a public library, a Turkish bath, an 
Institute of Music, a Physical Training College for young 
women, and a great many other public benefits adminis- 
tered by the Carnegie Trust. 

We all used this delightful park in the summer, its 
glorious gardens were a paradise. 

In the winter there was only the local cinema-house. 
I was lucky, and received much kind hospitality at the 
house of Sir William and Lady Robertson. 

Twice we managed to get up a game of mixed hockey 
with the young ladies of the Physical Training College. 
These sporting events were looked upon with the gravest 
displeasure by the directors of the College. Who could 
say what such goings on might lead to " Aye ! it was 
verra injudeecious ! " 

So, for the winter months ashore, we founded a club 
called " The Robbers' Retreat." Membership was 
limited to fifteen, and to approved gentlemen of any 
rank from the three light cruiser squadrons. The 
motto of the club was : " ABANDON RANK ALL YE WHO 


The club premises consisted of a small cottage on the 
pier. We furnished it ourselves, and as the club had a 
water entrance, a careful observer could have detected 
mysterious boats slipping in after dark and discharging 
strange bundles of service gear at the club doors. 

I myself found difficulty in walking past two ad- 
mirals whilst I tried to look as if I were in the habit of 
strolling about with two long condenser tubes instead 
of walking-sticks. These were our curtain-rods. 

Two small boys dressed as sailors, kept the place 
clean and waited on us during tea. Tea, milk, and 


butter were provided by the club. The rest had to be 
brought by the members. 

It was a popular institution, and it was not uncom- 
mon to see post-captains and even higher ranks sitting 
on an upturned biscuit-box enjoying the club's hos- 

At rare intervals an occasional hardy soul would go 
to Edinburgh. I never really enjoyed myself on those 
afternoons, and it was with an uneasy feeling that I 
visited the North British Hotel once an hour to see if 
I had been recalled. 

The people from the battle-cruisers spent every after- 
noon in Edinburgh, but for light-cruiser folk it was 
rather too far away from the ships, for we had to get 
out of harbour before the big ships in the event of a 
panic taking place. 

As far as the sailors were concerned their life ashore 
was simple. They landed at 1.30 and marched up to 
Broom Hall, lent by Lord Elgin. In the fields of the 
Park they played football at all seasons of the year. 
At 3 p.m. they marched down to the village green of 
Charlestown, where each man was allowed to buy one 
bottle of beer. The ladies of the village used to lend 
them glasses. 

Through this little ceremony romance stepped in, 
and two years after our first arrival there was a 

The bridegroom would have had to have averaged 
about a quarter of an hour's courtship once or twice a 
week for a year, for, strictly speaking, the men were not 
supposed to leave the party, but he confided in me one 
day and we had an unofficial conference of landing- 
party officers at which certain arrangements were made. 
He used to disappear at two o'clock and slip in again 
amongst the party on the village green. 

These were our pursuits when the ship was at long 

124 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

When we were at short notice the two main amuse- 
ments were medicine-ball and deck-hockey. Our decks 
were rather small for these games, but " they make you 
sweat " and thus fulfilled the first demand of the young 

In the evenings when we were at short notice we 
sometimes used to play with fate and organize charades 
or a ward-room sing-song. Every time the ward-room 
door opened there was a delicious moment of uncertainty 
as to whether it was the steaming signal. Then if it 
was not an order to slip at 10.30 p.m. the whole mess 
experienced to the full the real joys of being in harbour. 
If it was blowing so much the better. 

We prided ourselves on our cheery evenings, and 
large contingents of the " Brummagems " and the 
"Notts" used to come over. 

The Birmingham had a very talented concert party, 
which gave frequent performances. We organized a 
similar party and gave concerts once a fortnight, when 
" the exigencies of the service permitted." 

Every day in harbour we exercised control drill, and 
twice a week general quarters. 

Training the newly joined drafts, and teaching cine- 
matograph actors, newspaper reporters, coal-miners, 
professional musicians, etc., to be sailors, took up much 
of the time. 

Then we had " Our Band." 

We were the first light cruiser in the Grand Fleet to 
start an amateur band, for we laid its foundations in 
November 1914. For further account of " Our 
Band's " strange adventures, I refer you to a little book 
called Strange Tales from the Fleet. 

My own personal amusement during the war has 
been the study of music, about which art I was in utter 
ignorance in 1914. I decided, as a preliminary, to 
teach myself the piano. Enough success has rewarded 
me to convince me that the method of teaching the 


piano practised by governesses, and teachers in and out 
of schools, is quite wrong in these cases where the pupil 
has no intention of doing more than play to please his 

My mess-mates naturally suffered terribly. I cannot 
give them a higher testimonial to their good-nature 
than by saying that they allowed me to practise for an 
hour and a half daily when the ship was in harbour. 

The extent of my knowledge was contained in the 
sentence " Middle C is opposite the keyhole." Even 
I found my efforts at Rachmaninov's Prelude in C 
minor terrible. To my mess-mates it must have been 
one of their saddest experiences of the war. 

I shall always look back on the mess-life in H.M.S. 
Southampton with the greatest affection. 

There were usually about fourteen or seventeen of us, 
and we were exceptionally lucky in that we all got on 
very well together, and under these circumstances the 
mess of a small ship can be one of the happiest of 
places. If people don't get on well together, a small 
mess is appalling, it is so impossible to get away from 
one's bete noire. 

There was one pastime I forgot to mention, which 
was very fashionable for several months. We were 
asked to make munitions for the Army, when we had 
a spare hour or so. 

Our contributions consisted of rope grommets for the 
protection of the copper driving-bands of shells, whilst 
the latter were lying in dumps in France. A perfect 
fever for grommet-making set in throughout the ship. 
This disease was carefully fostered by the publication 
of what other ships were doing. 

Night after night everyone rushed to the smoking- 
room, before and after dinner, and sat down to make 
grommets as hard as he could. If one worked for 
four hours incessantly it was possible to produce a 
hundred. Anyone who could not boast of a daily out- 

126 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

put of twenty was considered a distinct worm, and a 
blot on the escutcheon of the mess honour. 

Sir David himself was reported to be making not less 
than twenty-five a day. 

The Minister of Munitions wrote a complimentary 
letter to the Battle-cruiser Force. 

The infection spread, and ships clamoured for more 
ambitious tasks. Canvas slings for shells were wanted ; 
at once each ship was issued with a Singer treadle sew- 
ing-machine. This was operated at a furious speed by 
relays of enthusiasts. 

The engineers despising " women's work " concen- 
trated on gauges for fuses and the base-plates of small 

In the course of time enthusiasm fell somewhat, then 
England turned her " munition corner," and the Fleet 
contribution was stopped. 

Following the Army example, very little was wasted 
in the Fleet. Once a week tugs came round and col- 
lected waste-paper, bottles, and fat. The results of 
these collections were all collated, and one would note 
with pride that H.M.S. Southampton headed the fat list 
for the current quarter. 

In such manner did the peaceful river of life glide on 
to the waterfall of Jutland. 



THERE is no doubt that this action at which the most 
powerful fleets that have ever sailed the seas met in 
battle, will provide material for discussion for many 

Trafalgar has been discussed and studied for over a 
hundred years, and it seems likely that the problems of 
Jutland will displace the problems of Trafalgar in the 
minds of the students of naval war. Such being the 
case, I feel that anything written about Jutland should 
be written, if it is meant to be a serious contribution to 
naval literature, with a due sense of responsibility. 

In the battle of Jutland, I was by the chance of war 
placed in certain positions, at certain times, in such 
manner that in looking back on the action, I do not 
believe that a single observer could have seen more, 
except from an aeroplane. Most of the time I was 
engaged in taking notes, and it is of what I saw that 
I proposed to write. 

It may thus be accepted that, unless otherwise stated, 
the incidents described are facts for which I am pre- 
pared to vouch to the extent of my belief in my own 

On the afternoon of the 3oth May, 1916, we were lying 
at Rosyth, and I was walking up and down the quarter- 
deck on watch when a string of flags rose from the 
Lion's signal bridge. 

I recognized it to be a steaming signal, and it turned 
out to be 

" Flag : Lion to Battle-cruiser Force and Fifth 


128 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Battle Squadron. Raise steam and report when 
ready to proceed." 

We at once began to get the ship ready for sea. Our 

sub-lieutenant, one H. B by name, was in the 

hospital ship close at hand, where he had been sent to, 
have his tonsils cut out. I had a curious feeling that 
we were going to have a " show," and quite without 
authority I sent him this note in our steamboat. 

" DEAR H. B , I believe we are going out on a 

stunt, the steamboat is going to be hoisted, but if you 
want to come and can get away from the hospital ship, 
nip into her and come over." 

The Commodore had just come back from the shore, 
and I told him what I had done, and though he did not 
exactly disapprove, I saw that he thought it rather 

When H. B arrived straight from bed I believe 

he practically broke out of the hospital ship our Fleet 
Surgeon was scandalized, and promptly ordered him 
to bed. I remember that I felt rather foolish when I 
went down to see him, and could only reply in answer 
to his inquiries as to how long the Huns had been out, 
that as far as I knew they were not out at all. 

We sailed at 9 p.m. 

The three light cruiser squadrons were up to strength, 
but the Third Battle-cruiser Squadron was at Scapa 
doing gunnery exercises ; they were commanded by 
Admiral Hood. 

We were reinforced by the Fifth Battle Squadron, 
consisting of the Malaya, Warspite, Barham, and 
Valiant, under the command of Rear-Admiral Evan 
Thomas. The only other absentee was the Australia, 
away refitting. 

We did not know why we were going out, and to this 
moment I have never been able to find out officially 
what we hoped to do, but the on dit was and still is, 


that we were to support an air raid or perhaps a mine- 
laying expedition in the Bight. At all events our im- 
mediate destination was a rendezvous near the Horns 

The Germans stated after the action that their forces 
were engaged on an enterprise to the North. 

I strongly suspect that this enterprise consisted in 
getting the British Battle-cruiser Force between their 
battle-cruisers and battle-fleet, for they knew very well 
that the region of the Horns Reef was a favourite spot 
of ours when we were making a reconnaissance towards 
the German coast. 

Everything points to the fact that for once they 
expected us there and laid their plans accordingly ; or 
else they were out to do a raid on North-sea trade. 

It will be seen how very nearly this former state of 
affairs materialized, though it is impossible to assert 
definitely whether it was by accident or design. We 
did not appear to be expecting Huns, as we cruised 
along to the eastward at no great speed ; I think we 
were making good either 17 or 19 knots. At noon we 
received orders to have full speed ready at half an hour's 
notice, but as we were getting well over towards the 
Danish coast, this order partook of the nature of pre- 
cautionary routine. The order of the Fleet was the 
usual cruising formation by day. Course approxi- 
mately east. 

The battle-cruisers were in two lines and close to 
them was the cruiser Champion and the attached 
destroyers. The seaplane-carrier Engardine was also 
in company. Five miles ahead of the Lion, the light- 
cruiser screen was spread on a line of bearing roughly 
north and south. 

The squadrons were in groups of two ships 5 miles 
apart, and the order from north to south was First 
Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore Sinclair, 
with his broad pennant in the Galatea ; Third Light 

I3O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Trevelyan 
Napier, with his flag in the Chatham ; and Second Light 
Cruiser Squadron, consisting of Southampton flying the 
broad pennant of our Commodore, the Birmingham 
(Captain Duff), the Dublin (Captain Scott), the Notting- 
ham (Captain Miller). 

Those of us who were off watch were dozing in the 
smoking-room after lunch, when the secretary put his 
head in, and said, " Galatea at the northern end of the 
line has sighted and is chasing two hostile cruisers." 

This was at 2.23 and woke us all up with a jump. 

I quickly went to my cabin and made certain prepara- 
tions which I always did when there was a chance of 
something happening. These preparations consisted 
in putting on as many clothes as possible, collecting my 
camera, notebook and pencils, chocolate, and other 
aids to war in comfort in case of a prolonged stay at 
action stations. 

At 2.56 the Galatea reported that she had sighted the 
German battle-cruisers, and we went to action stations, 
and the ship began to throb as we worked up to full 

At about 3 p.m. we all turned to the N.E. to close the 
reported position of the enemy, who had turned from 
their original course of north to south. 

As the northern edge of our screen only just made 
contact with the western edge of their screen it will be 
seen how nearly we missed them. 

The turn towards the north-east had brought us 
(Second Light Cruiser Squadron) on the starboard 
quarter of the Lion and distant but 2 miles from her. 

At 3.55 the Lion turned to south-east and the battle- 
cruisers assumed line of battle. This placed us before 
her starboard beam, and without orders we pressed at 
our utmost speed, followed by our three light cruisers 
to a position ahead of the Lion. 

The First and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons, 


without signal, took station astern of the battle 

It was in these and subsequent movements without 
signals that the value was exemplified of all the 
exercises we light cruisers had done with the Lion, 
The light -cruiser commanders knew exactly what Sir 
David expected of them, and they did it. 

As the battle-cruisers turned into line, I caught a 
faint distant glimpse of the silvery hulls of the German 
battle-cruisers, though owing to the great range only 
parts of their upper works were visible for short inter- 
vals. They appeared to be steering a slightly con- 
verging course. 

As the battle-cruisers came into line, with the 
Champion, her destroyers, and ourselves ahead of them, 
both our own battle-cruisers and the Germans opened 
fire practically simultaneously. 

Our line consisted of the Lion, Princess Royal, Queen 
Mary, Tiger, New Zealand, and Indefatigable, in the 
order named. 

The Germans were almost entirely merged into a 
long, smoky cloud on the eastern horizon, the sort of 
cloud that presages a thunderstorm, and from this 
gloomy retreat a series of red flashes darting out in our 
direction indicated the presence of five German battle- 

It was at once evident that though the Germans were 
but indifferently visible to us, we on the other hand were 
silhouetted against a bright and clear western horizon, 
as far as the enemy were concerned. 

The German shooting, as has been the case through- 
out the war, was initially of an excellent quality. Our 
battle-cruisers about a mile away just on our port 
quarter were moving along in a forest of tremendous 
splashes. Their guns trained over on the port beam 
were firing regular salvos. 

At 4.15 (approx.) I was watching our line from my 




position in the after-control, when without any warning 
an immense column of grey smoke with a fiery base 
and a flaming top stood up on the sea, where the 
Indefatigable should have been. It hung there for I 
don't know how many seconds, and then a hole 
appeared in this pillar of smoke, through which I caught 
a glimpse of the forepart of the Indefatigable lying on 
its side ; then there was a streak of flame and a fresh 
outpouring of smoke. 

I turned with a sinking heart and watched the re- 
maining five battle-cruisers. 

I can nor could I next day remember no noise. 
We were not, of course, firing ourselves, and it seemed 
to me that I was being carried along in a kind of 

I wondered what would happen next ; each time the 
splashes rose on either side of the line of great ships it 
was like a blow to the body. We could not see from 
our low deck where the 13 -5-inch shells were falling on 
that sinister eastern horizon from which the maddening 
jets of flame darted in and out. 

At 4.23, in the flicker of an eyelid, the beautiful Queen 
Mary was no more. A huge stem of grey smoke shot 
up to perhaps a thousand feet, swaying slightly at the 
base. The top of this stem of smoke expanded and 
rolled downwards. Flames rose and fell, in the stalk of 
this monstrous mushroom. The bows of a ship, a 
bridge, a mast, slid out of the smoke perhaps after all 
the Queen Mary was still there. 

No ! it was the next astern the Tiger. 

Incredible as it may sound, the Tiger passed right 
over the spot on which the Queen Mary had been 
destroyed, and felt nothing. The time interval between 
her passage over the grave of the Queen Mary and the 
destruction of the latter ship would be about 40-60 

Just before the Tiger appeared, I saw some piece of 

134 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

debris go whirling up a full 1,000 feet above the top of 
the smoke it might have been the armour plates from 
the top of a turret. I remember that I found it im- 
possible to realize that I had just seen 2,000 men, and 
many personal friends, killed ; it seemed more like a 
wonderful cinematograph picture. 

What did worry me was that we were now reduced 
to four. 

I remember saying to H. B , who incidentally 

had appeared from his sick-bed in pyjamas and a dress- 
ing-gown, though he subsequently put on some more 
clothes, " At this rate, by 5 p.m. we shall have no 

He nodded solemnly he was so hoarse he could only 

" But," I added, " by the laws of chance one of them 
will blow up next, you see." 

We were by now right ahead of the Lion, and as I 
watched her, I saw a tremendous flash amidships, as 
she was hit by a shell or shells. I saw the whole ship 
stagger ; for what seemed eternity I held my breath, 
half expecting her to blow up, but she held on and 
showed no signs of outward injury. 

Actually her midship turret, manned by the marines, 
was completely put out of action, and had it not 
been for the heroism of the major of marines the ship 
might have gone. He lost his life and gained the V.C. 

Soon after the Lion received this blow the Thirteenth 
Flotilla was ordered to make an attack on the German 

It was extremely difficult to see the destroyers after 
they started, but I could vaguely see that they were 
coming under heavy fire as they got about half-way 

It was during this attack that Nestor and Nomad 
were lost and Commander Bingham gained his V.C. 

At 4.38 a very startling development took place. 


We suddenly saw and reported light cruisers followed 
by the High Seas Fleet bearing south-east. Sir David 
Beatty at once signalled to the Battle-cruiser Force 
to alter course 16 points (180). This manoeuvre was 
executed by the battle-cruisers in succession. 

The German battle-cruisers were doing the same 
thing at the same moment. 

We disobeyed the signal, or rather delayed obeying 
it for two reasons 

Firstly, we wished to get close enough to the High 
Seas Fleet to examine them and report accurately on 
their composition and disposition. 

Secondly, we had hopes of delivering a torpedo 
attack on the long crescent-shaped line of heavy ships 
which were stretched round on our port bow. 

It was a strain steaming at 25 knots straight for 
this formidable line of battleships, with our own friends 
going fast away from us in the opposite direction. 

As we got closer I counted sixteen or seventeen 
battleships with the four Konig class in the van and the 
six older pre-Dreadnoughts in the rear. 

Seconds became minutes and still they did not open 
fire, though every second I expected to see a sheet of 
flame ripple down their sides and a hail of shell fall 
around us. I can only account for this strange inac- 
tivity on their part by the theory that as they only saw 
us end on, and we were steering on opposite courses to 
the remaining British ships, they assumed we were a 
German light cruiser squadron that had been running 
away from the British battle-cruisers. 

Only in this manner can I account for the strange 
fact that they allowed us to get to within 13,000 yards 
of their line, and never fired a shot at us. 

This theory is supported by the fact that when at 
4.45 the calm voice of Petty Officer Barnes on the 
foremost rangefinder intoned, " Range one, three, five, 
double ho ! Range, one, three, two, double ho ! " 

136 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

the Commodore saw that we could not get into a 
position for a torpedo attack, and as we should be lucky 
if we got out of the place we were then in, he gave the 
order for the turning signal, which had been flying for 
five minutes, to be hauled down. 

Over went the helms, and the four ships slewed round, 
bringing our sterns to the enemy. As we turned the 
fun began, and half a dozen German battleships opened 
a deliberate fire on the squadron. 

My action station was aft, but I could hear every- 
thing that passed on the fore-bridge, as I was in direct 
communication by voice-pipe. I heard the imperturb- 
able Petty Officer Barnes continuing his range taking 
" Range one, three, two, double ho ! Range one, 
double three, double ho ! " 

Crash ! Bang ! Whizzzz ! and a salvo crumped 
down around us, the fragments whistling and sobbing 
overhead. Suddenly I heard Petty Officer Barnes say, 
with evident satisfaction, " Range hobscured ! " 

I took a general look round, and the situation was as 
follows (see Figs. 3 and 4). 

About three or four miles north of us our battle- 
cruisers were steaming along, making a good deal of 
smoke and firing steadily at what I imagined to be the 
German battle-cruisers' distant hulls on our starboard 

Then came a gap of two miles between the battle- 
cruisers and the Fifth Battle Squadron. 

These latter four ships had passed the battle-cruisers 
on opposite courses when Sir David Beatty turned 
north, and as soon as they had passed him, Rear- 
Admiral Evan Thomas turned his squadron to north- 
by-west, and followed up the battle-cruisers. 

It will be remembered that whilst this was going on 
we (Second Light Cruiser Squadron) had still been 
going south. When we turned to north, we found 
ourselves about a mile behind the last ship of the Fifth 


Battle Squadron. Our squadron was not in line, but 
scattered as shown in Fig 5. 

As flagship we had the post of honour nearest to 
the enemy. We maintained this position for one hour, 
during which time we were under persistent shell-fire 
from the rear six ships of the German line. 

But we had them under observation, and we were 
able to transmit news of great importance to Sir John 
Jellicoe, whom we knew to be hurrying down from the 
north to our support. 

We had experienced one shock to the system, on 
sighting the German Fleet right ahead, and we all 
anticipated that the Huns would shortly enjoy the 
same sensation 

The Fifth Battle Squadron just ahead of us were a 
brave sight. They were receiving the concentrated fire 
of some twelve German heavy ships, but it did not seem 
to be worrying them, and though I saw several shells 
hit the Warspite just ahead of us, the German shooting 
at these ships did not impress me very favourably. Our 
own position was not pleasant. 

The half-dozen older battleships at the tail of the 
German line were out of range to fire at the Fifth 
Battle-cruiser, but though we had gradually drawn out 
to 15,000-16,000 yards, we were inside their range, and 
they began to do a sort of target practice in slow time 
on our squadron. 

I was in the after-control with half a dozen men, 

H. B , and the clerk. We crouched down behind 

the tenth-of-an-inch plating and ate bully beef, but it 
didn't seem to go down very easily. It seemed rather 
a waste of time to eat beef, for surely in the next ten 
minutes one of those n-inch shells would get us, they 
couldn't go on falling just short and just over indefin- 
itely, and, well, if one did hit us light cruisers were not 
designed to digest n-inch high explosives in their 

British Battle Fleet 
Deploying, about 6-20 p. m 

Leading British BaUlesliip 


Lion at 6p.m. 
Battle Cruisers 
passed ahead of 
Battle Fleet. 

6-0 pm 

5* B.S.42 n .<*L.ClS. Joined 
behind Battle Reel wtisn 
they got North. 


2 n . d LC.5p.m, 

Rear Ships, German Line 5pm. 

FIG. 4. Approximate situation whilst meeting Battle Fleet and during de- 
ployment ; courses of Battle Cruisers and Battle Fleet and times only 
approximately accurate, as we were too far south to see very well. 



The sub, who was practically speechless owing to 
his bad throat, and I agreed that we would not look 
at the Hun line. But we could never resist having a 
peep about once a minute, and somehow we always 
seemed to look just as two or three of the great brutes 
flickered flames from their guns at us, and we knew 
that another salvo was on its way across. 

We knew the time of flight was twenty-three seconds, 
and the sub had a wrist-watch with a prominent second- 
hand we almost agreed to throw it overboard after 
three-quarters of an hour's shelling ; at the twenty- 
third second the sub would make a grimace, and as if 
in reply a series of splitting reports and lugubrious 
moans announced that the salvo had arrived. Fre- 
quently they were so close that torrents of spray from 
the splashes splattered down on the boat-deck. Each 
shell left a muddy pool in the water, and appeared to 
burst on impact. 

We all compared notes afterwards and decided that 
during this hour about fifty to sixty shells fell within 
100 yards of the ship, and many more slightly farther 

I attribute our escape, as far as we were able to 
contribute towards it, to the very clever manner in 

which " I ," our navigator, zig-zagged the ship 

according to where he estimated the next salvo would 
fall. It was possible to forecast this to a certain 
extent, as it was obvious that the Huns were working 
what is technically known as " a ladder." 

That is to say, the guns are fired with an increase of 
range to each salvo until " the target is crossed," and 
then the range is decreased for each salvo until the 
splashes are short of the target once again. It is thus 
a creeping barrage which moves up and down across 
the target. 

The best way to avoid it, is to sheer in towards the 
enemy when the groups of tall splashes are coming 

140 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

towards the ship, and as soon as they have crossed 
over and begin once more to come towards the ship, 
then reverse the helm and sheer away from the enemy. 

The fascination of watching these deadly and graceful 
splashes rising mysteriously from the smooth sea was 
enormous. To know that the next place where they 
would rise was being calculated by some Hun perched 
up in one of those distant masts, and that he was 
watching these " leetle cruiser ships " through a pair of 
Zeiss binoculars and I was watching his ship through 
a similar pair of Zeiss was really very interesting. It 
would have been very interesting indeed if I could have 
been calculating the position of the splashes round his 
ship ; but he was 16,000 yards away, and our gun- 
sights stopped at 14,500, so we just had to sit and hope 
we'd see the Grand Fleet soon. At 6.17 p.m. the news 
that the Grand Fleet had been sighted right ahead 
spread round the ship like wild-fire. 

Forgotten was the steady shelling now we'd give 
them hell. The battle drew on to its dramatic climax 
when as faintly ahead in the smoke and haze the great 
line of Grand Fleet battleships became visible curling 
across to the eastward (Fig. 4). 

They had just deployed. 

Then two armoured cruisers appeared from right ahead 
between ourselves and the German line . They were steer- 
ing about south-west, and were moving in an appalling 
concentration of fire from the German battleships. 

Whom could they be ? 

As I watched, the leading ship glowed red all over 
and seemed to burst in every direction. Our men 
cheered frantically thinking it was a Hun. Alas ! I 
had caught a brief glimpse of a white ensign high above 
the smoke and flame, it was the Defence flying the flag 
of the gallant Sir Robert Arbuthnot. 

The ship astern was the Warrior, and it was evident 
that she was hard hit. 


The Huns redoubled their efforts upon her, when a 
most extraordinary incident amazed both sides. The 
Warspite, just ahead of us, altered course to starboard 
and proceeded straight for the centre of the Hun line 
(Fig. 5). For some moments she was unfired at, 
then as she continued to go straight for the Germans 
the tornado of fire lifted from the Warrior, hovered as it 
seemed in space, and fell with a crash about the Warspite. 

The Warrior, burning in several places, battered and 
wrecked, with steam escaping from many broken pipes, 
dragged slowly out of the battle to the westward ; she 
passed about 400 yards under our stern. 

Meanwhile with sinking hearts the sub and I watched 
the Warspite and wondered what her amazing career 
portended. I focused her in my reflex camera, but so 
certain did I feel that she would be destroyed that I 
could not bring myself to expose the plate. I should 
guess that she reached a position about 8,000 yards 
from the German line when to our relief she slowly 
turned round, and still lashing out viciously with all 
her 15-inch guns she rejoined the British lines. At our 
end of the line there was a distinct lull. In fact, the 
speed of the tail of the Fleet became so slow that our 
squadron turned 32 points (a complete circle) in 
order not to bunch up on the battleships. In the course 
of this manoeuvre we very nearly had a collision with one 
of the Fifth Battle Squadron, the Valiant or Malaya. 

It was now possible to try and take a general survey 
of the battle (Fig. 5). 

It was evident that the day of days had dawned, 
though too near sunset to suit us. At last the Grand 
Fleet and High Seas Fleet were up against each other, 
and the fate of nations was being decided. 

For a seemingly endless distance the line of Grand 
Fleet battleships stretched away to the east. To the 
south, the German line, partially obscured in mist, lay 
in the shape of a shallow convex arc. 

142 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

The Grand Fleet were loosing off salvos with splendid 

The German shooting was simply ludicrously bad. 
Looking up our line, I sometimes saw a stray shell fall 
short of our battle fleet, and every now and then I saw 
a few fall over. Otherwise nothing anywhere near 

I remember seeing the Agincourt, a few ships ahead 
of us, let off a lo-gun salvo a truly Kolossal spectacle, 
as a Hun would say. 

It was about now that I noticed that though the 
surface of the sea was quite calm, yet the ship was 
rolling quite appreciably. I then discovered that the 
whole surface of the sea was heaving up and down in 
a confused swell, which was simply due to the wash 
created by the two-hundred-odd ships which were 
moving about at high speeds. 

Far ahead, rapid flashes and much smoke indicated 
that furious attacks and counter-attacks were taking 
place between the rival destroyer flotillas and their 
supporting light cruisers. The battle area of these 
desperate conflicts between gun platforms of J-inch 
steel, moving at the speed of an express train, was the 
space between the vans of the two Fleets. 

We were too far off to see any details of this fighting ; 
but at 6.47 we reached the spot where it had taken 
place. The first thing we saw was a German three- 
funnel cruiser, the Wiesbaden. She was battered badly, 
as she had been lying inert between the two lines, and 
whenever a British battleship could not see her target 
she opened on the Wiesbaden. 

We were simply longing to hit something, and this 
seemed our chance. Increasing speed to 20 knots we 
turned and led our squadron in to administer the coup 
de grace. 

Turning to bring our broadsides to bear at 6,000 yards, 
we directed a stream of 6-inch on the Hun, who replied 




k \* 

144 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

feebly with one gun. There is no doubt that the men 
who worked that gun had the right spirit in them. 

Beyond the Wiesbaden, at a range of about 14,000 
yards, our old friends the pre-dreadnoughts were 
toddling along at the stern of the German line. During 
our approach to the Wiesbaden they had preserved an 
ominous silence. It did not remain thus for long. 
The six of them opened a rapid fire on us, and we 
were at once obliged to open the range without delay. 

We scuttled back to the tail of the British line as 
hard as we could, zig-zagging like snipe, with n-inch 
crumping down ahead, on both sides, and astern of us. 
(See our track, Fig. 5-) 

I counted a bunch of three about 40 yards on the 

starboard beam of the ship, and H. B , who was 

hanging out over the other side of the after-control, 
reported a group of seven close to the ship on the port 
beam. At this period (7.5 p.m.) twilight was beginning 
and the visibility was partly spoiled by low-lying clouds 
of funnel and brown cordite smoke, which hung like 
a gloomy pall over the scene. 

It was apparent from the curve of our line that we 
were gradually working round to the eastward of the 
Huns, and at 7.30 p.m. the Germans decided to make 
a supreme effort to get out of the nasty position they 
were being forced into, viz. the centre of a semicircle, 
of which the British Fleet was the circumference. 

That they got out very cleverly must be admitted. 
A few destroyers crept out at the head of their line, 
and almost immediately afterwards a dense smoke- 
screen unfurled itself between us and the enemy. 
Before this screen had reached its full length the 
Germans were altering course 8 points together to 
starboard, and escaping from the deadly fire of the 
British battleships. 

One of the minor incidents of battle now took place. 
A German destroyer, part of the debris of the destroyer 


actions some twenty minutes earlier, was lying, incap- 
able of movement, between the two Fleets. Unfortun- 
ately for her, she was in such a position that the smoke- 
screen rolled to the southward of her. She was alone 
for her sins in front of the British Fleet. 

No battleship fired at her ; but we gave her a salvo 
at 6,000 yards as we came abreast of her. We hit, and 
a large explosion took place amidships. However, she 
still managed to float, and the Faulkner and some 
destroyers, who were hanging about near us, went over 
and finished her off. It rather annoyed us, as we 
intended to do some more target practice on her. 

The Germans had disappeared somewhere to the 
south-west behind their smoke, and for a few minutes 
everything was strangely calm. 

At 8.25 the Birmingham sighted a submarine, and I 
saw that the Grand Fleet had got into five columns 
for the night. Four columns were abreast of each 
other, and the fifth, composed of the Valiant, Malaya, 
and Barham, was astern of them. We were on the 
starboard beam of this latter column (see Fig. 6). The 
course of the Fleet was south, and the Germans were 
somewhere to the westward of us in the growing 

At 8.50 p.m. we sighted four German destroyers 
approaching us on the starboard bow, apparently 
intending to deliver an attack on the Fifth Battle 

We opened fire at once, and hit the leading destroyer 
amidships. All four turned round and, pursued by our 
shells, disappeared behind a smoke-screen. 

Curiously enough I met the captain of this damaged 
destroyer, at a later period in the war, under differ- 
ent circumstances. For he left the German destroyer 
service soon after Jutland, and entered submarines. 
In the fullness of time his boat was destroyed, and he 
was the only survivor. Under my care he journeyed to 

146 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

London and a prison camp but I am straying from 

This feeble little destroyer attack may be said to 
mark the conclusion of the day action as far as we 
were concerned. Directly afterwards we went to night 
defence stations, and nerve-strings were tightened up 
another turn. 

I busied myself in getting the notes I had taken into 
shape, and testing communications to the guns. I have 
a curious little note on a crumpled signal pad. It is 
dated 8.50 p.m., and says 

" I see I've smoked five ounces of tobacco since 
half -past three." 



AT 9 p.m. heavy firing started and the south-eastern 
horizon was lit by flashes. 

I subsequently discovered that this was the Third 
Light Cruiser Squadron and our battle-cruisers still 
worrying and harassing the head of the German line 
and forcing them farther and farther away from their 
bases and out into the North Sea. 

H. B and I were fortunate enough to discover a 

slab of chocolate and some strong tea, which refreshed 
us greatly. We were drinking, about our tenth cup, 
when some dark shapes appeared on the starboard bow 
and in a couple of minutes resolved themselves into a 
flotilla of destroyers approaching on opposite courses 
and at a high speed. We held our fire, and when they 
were about 1,000 yards off recognized them as our 

There had been no time to get the cumbersome 
challenge and recognition signal started. They flashed 
past us, and as the last one passed her after-gun fired 
a solitary 4-inch sheU in our direction. It whistled 
harmlessly overhead. 

I account for this rude behaviour by supposing that 
at this gun some gunlayer was dozing away, and 
happened to wake up as we were passing. Seeing the 
dim outlines of some light cruisers, he obeyed his first 
instinct and pressed the trigger. We quietly steamed 
on astern of the Fleet ; there was nothing to do except 

1 See Fig. 6. 


i'Vt.C.S. ( 

Nun* somewhere m 
Kere at 10-op.m. 
decide to steer S E 

X 10-20 p.nv 

(Southampton sin 

Hun F/eet crosses stern of 
British fleet, and gets to Eastward 
Whilst on Dotted Tracks they are 
subjected to violent attacks by 

British T.B.0% 


I 2-30 am 

FIG. 6. Hun Fleet crosses stern of British Fleet. 



stare out to starboard and imagine vague shapes. It 
was very easy to imagine ships on the night of the 
3ist May, 1916. 

At about 10 p.m. searchlights criss-crossed on the far 
western horizon ; they rose and fell, turned and twisted, 
and finally fixed their implacable and relentless light 
on a group of destroyers. 

Fascinated, we watched the destroyers rushing up 
the bright paths of the lights. The white splashes 
gleamed all round them, and then a great red lurid 
stain started in one of the attacking craft and spread to 
a vast explosion of fierce white flame, beside which the 
cruel searchlights seemed pale. Instantly the search- 
lights were extinguished, the attack was over, and once 
more all was dark. 

We had probably witnessed one of the many and 
glorious attacks in which the British destroyer flotillas 
threw themselves without stint upon the German Fleet 
throughout this strange night. 

The sudden disappearing of all signs of this attack 
ever having been made, left a curious feeling of empti- 
ness in the atmosphere. 

I groped my way on to the bridge and had a chat 

with B , the gunnery lieutenant, as a result of which 

he arranged that in the event of night action he would 
control the guns from the forebridge and I would be in 
general charge aft. 

A signalman, and R. I. the navigator suddenly 
whispered, " Five ships on the beam." 

The Commodore looked at them through night 
glasses, and I heard a whispered discussion going on as 
to whether they were the enemy or the Third Light 
Cruiser Squadron. 

From their faint silhouettes it was impossible to 
discover more than the fact that they were light 
cruisers. I decided to go aft as quickly as possible. 
On the way aft I looked in at the after-control, where 

I5O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

H. B said to me, " There are five Huns on the 

beam. What on earth is going on ? " 

They were evidently in as much doubt as we, 
for as I got down into the waist by the mainmast, 
a very great many things happened in a very short 

We began to challenge ; the Germans switched on 
coloured lights at their fore yardarms. 

A second later a solitary gun crashed forth from the 
Dublin, who was next astern of us. Simultaneously I 
saw the shell hit a ship just above the water-line and 
about 800 yards away. 

As I caught a nightmare-like glimpse of her interior 
which has remained photographed on my mind to this 
day, I said to myself : " My G , they are along- 
side us." 

At that moment the Germans switched on their 
searchlights, and we switched on ours. Before I was 
blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line 
of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was 
standing answered my shout of " Fire ! " 

The action lasted 3^ minutes. The four leading 
German ships concentrated their lights and guns on the 
Southampton ; the fifth and perhaps the fourth as well 
fired at the Dublin. 

The Nottingham and Birmingham, third and fourth 
in our line, with great wisdom did not switch on their 
lights and were not fired at. 

In those 3^ minutes we had 89 casualties, and 
75 per cent, of the personnel on the upper deck were 
killed or wounded. 

It is impossible to give a connected account of what 
happened. Many strange and unpleasant things hap- 
pen when men find themselves in hell on earth. Men 
strong men go mad and jump overboard. Wounded 
men are driven to the oblivion of death in the sea by 
the agony of their injuries. It is not good to look too 


closely into these things which are the realities, the 
plain facts of battle. 

The range was amazingly close no two groups of 
such ships have ever fought so close in the history of 
this war. There could be no missing. A gun was fired 
and a hit obtained the gun was loaded, it flamed, it 
roared, it leapt to the rear, it slid to the front there was 
another hit. 

But to load guns, there must be men, flesh and blood 
must lift the shells and cordite and open and close the 
hungry breeches. But flesh and blood cannot stand 
high explosives, and there was a great deal of H.E. 
bursting all along H.M.S. Southampton's upper deck 
from her after-screen to the forebridge. 

The range was so close, the German shots went high, 
just high enough to burst on the upper deck and around 
the after superstructure and bridge. And in a light 
cruiser that's where all the flesh and blood has to 

So in a very few seconds my guns stopped firing, all 
through lack of flesh and blood it was a great pity. In 
fact, the sergeant-major, with a burnt face, and myself 
seemed to be the only bits of flesh and blood left 

Where on earth were the others ? 

Why had the men on each side of me fallen down in 
such funny heaps ? It was curious, very curious ; as a 
matter of fact, daylight revealed that it wasn't so very 
remarkable. The really remarkable thing was that the 
sergeant-major, with his burnt face, and myself were 
still standing about and representing flesh and blood. 

One shell had burst on the side just below the gun, 
and the fragments had whipped over the top of the low 
bulwark and mowed the men down as standing corn 
falls before the reaper. 

Another shell had burst on the searchlight just above 
us, and hurled the remains of this expensive instrument 

152 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

many feet. Three men who looked after it and had 
guided its beam on to the enemy died instantaneously. 

The fragments from this shell descended upon " the 
waist " like hail, and scoured out the insides of the gun- 
shields of the two 6-inch, manned by marines, one gun 
each side. And then I seemed to be standing in a fire. 
The flash of some exploding shell had ignited half a 
dozen rounds of cordite. 

A shell exploding in the half-deck had severed the 
connexion to the upper deck fire main. I put my head 
down a hatch and shouted for a good hose. The wine 
steward came up on deck with one, someone turned on 
the water down below, and the fire was quickly out. 

The wine steward forgot his servitude, he rose to the 
heights of an officer, he was my right-hand man. He 
spoke words of fierce exhortation to the wounded ; 
those who could get up did so. 

Then it became lighter than the day. 

I looked forward. 

Two pillars of white flame rose splendidly aloft. One 
roared up the foremast, the other reached above the 
tops of the second and third funnels. 

This then was the end ! The heat warmed the cheek. 
It was bad luck, just after we had got the small fire aft 
extinguished. But there could be no doubt ; the cen- 
tral ammunition hoist was between those two funnels. 

What was it going to feel like to blow up ? 

Let me see, how had the Queen Mary looked ? 

Of course we were a smaller ship, perhaps we would 
blow up in a gentler manner. 

Might as well take one's greatcoat off, just in case 
one fetched up in the water. I took it off. 

What ought one to do? 

Could not be more than a few seconds now. What 
could one do in a few seconds ? 

Could not fire a gun no men. 

Fascinating sight, those two pillars of white flame. 


By Heaven, the centre one had turned wavered, 
it decreased in height, it grew again ; but the spell was 
broken and I rushed to the ladder which led from the 
waist to the boat deck in order to get up to the fire and 

I ran a few steps and tripped up, over a heap of 
bodies. I got up, tried not to tread on soft things, and 
arrived on the boat deck. 

The firing had ceased, the Commander and H. B 

were at the central fire. It suddenly went out, so did 
the foremost one. 

Everything was pitch black. 

Where were the Germans ? 

Nothing but groans from dark corners. 

Though I did not know it at the time, the Germans 
had fled. 

They fled because A , our torpedo lieutenant, 

had fired a 2i-inch torpedo. At 41 knots the torpedo 
had shot across and, striking the Frauenlob, had blown 
her in half. Out of 300 Huns in her 7 survived. 

I have their account of the action before me. 

They say, " The leading ship of the British line burst 
into flames and blew up . . . then we were torpedoed." 
They were wrong their friends sheered off just a few 
seconds too soon. 

I will admit that they probably think they saw us 
blown up. 

A friend of mine, McG , who was five miles away 

in one of the Fifth Battle Squadron, read a signal on 
the bridge by the light of our fires. 

In the ships of our squadron astern they thought we 
had gone, and took shelter from the bits they expected 
to come down. 

It was a near thing. 

It is after the firing is over that the real horror of 
a night action begins. We did not know where the 
Germans were, our guns' crews were practically non- 

154 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

existent, the voice-pipes and telephones to the guns 
were in shreds. We simply had to have time to re- 
organize, so we didn't dare show a light. 

Yet the upper deck was strewn with dead and 
wounded. One stumbled on them as one walked. By 
the aid of discreetly struck matches and shaded torches 
the upper deck was searched. 

I heard a groan and came upon a poor boy named 
Mellish. He could only say, " My leg my arm." 
Another man and myself got him down one of the two 
steep hatches that led to the lower deck. His injuries 
were sickening, but with a smile he said : " It's no 
good worrying about me, sir ! " and then he died. I 
don't think he felt any pain. 

I went up to the bridge to see B about reorganiz- 
ing the men left for guns' crews and rigging up tempor- 
ary communications. As I passed the chart house a 
well-known voice called me in. It was the Commodore. 

He told me to go down to the fleet surgeon and 
find out what our casualties were. And once more I 
went below. 

I went down the foremost hatch and along the central 
passage nicknamed the twopenny tube which in this 
class of ship runs down the centre of the ship above the 
boiler and engine-rooms. There was about six inches 
of water in this passage, which had slopped in from 
some holes almost exactly on the water-lines. 

The operating room at the after end of this passage 
was the stokers' bathroom. 

Imagine a small room which a shore-goer might 
hesitate to use as a dark room in his house, it might get 
so stuffy. The size of this room was about 8 feet high, 
12 feet broad and 12 feet long. The centre of the room 
was occupied by a light portable operating table. A 
row of wash basins ran down one side, and the steel 
walls streamed with sweat. 

Four bright electric lights were fixed to the roof, 


but with its faults the stokers' bathroom had some 
advantages. It had a tiled floor and a drain in the 

Stepping carefully between rows of shapes who were 
lying in lines down each side of the passage-way, I put 
my head inside the narrow doorway. 

Bare-armed the fleet surgeon and C , the young 

doctor, were working with desperate but methodical 
haste. They were just taking a man's leg off above the 
knee, so I did not interrupt. When they had finished 
and the patient had been carried out, I gave the 
P.M.O. the Commodore's message, whilst his assistants 
went outside to get another man. 

" About 40 killed and 40 or 50 wounded," he said. 

I thanked him, and went back to the bridge. 

He was hard at it for eleven hours : truly the doctor 
is one of the finest products of modern civilization. 

I told the Commodore what I had learned. He made 
a remark. I realized we were only one light cruiser in 
a very big fleet. 

I went aft again and down to the ward-room. The 
mess presented an extraordinary appearance. As it 
was the largest room in the ship, we placed all the 
seriously wounded cases in it. The long table was 
covered with men, all lying very still and silently white. 

The young doctor was in charge, and as I came in he 
signalled to the sick-berth steward to remove one man 
over whom he had been bending. Four stokers, still 
grimy from the stoke-hole, lifted the body and carried 
it out. 

Two men were on top of the sideboard, others were 
in arm-chairs. 

A hole in the side admitted water to the ward- 
room, which sploshed about as the ship gently rolled. 
In this ankle-deep flood, bloodstained bandages and 
countless pieces of the small debris of war floated to 
and fro. 

156 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

All the wounded who could speak were very cheerful 
and only wanted one thing cigarettes. The most 
dreadful cases were the " burns " but this subject 
cannot be written about. 

An hour's work on deck connected with the re- 
organization of the guns' crews, the impressment of 
stokers off watch for this duty, and the testing of com- 
munications followed. Then H. B and myself 

decided we'd sit down somewhere. We went up to the 
fore-bridge, and rolled ourselves up in the canvas cover 
of a compass. 

Horrors ! it was wet. We hastily shifted to a less 
gruesome bed. 

We had just lain down when fresh gun-firing broke 
out right astern, and every one was on the qui vive with 
a jump. It died down I wasn't sorry, we were not as 
ready for action as we could have wished. 

We increased speed to 20 knots, and as dawn 
slowly grew the ghostly shapes of some battleships 
loomed out of the mist. I heard a pessimist on the 
upper bridge hazard the opinion that we were about to 
take station astern of the German Battle Fleet, but as 
the light grew brighter we saw that we had rejoined the 
British Fleet. 

Complete daylight enabled us to survey the damage. 

The funnels were riddled through with hundreds of 
small holes, and the decks were slashed and ripped with 
splinters. There were several holes along the side, but 
the general effect was as if handfuls of splinters had 
been thrown against the upper works of the ship. The 
protective mattresses round the bridge and control 
position were slashed with splinters. The foremast, the 
rigging, the boats, the signal lockers, the funnel casing, 
the mainmast, everything was a mass of splinter 

Our sailors firmly believed, and continued to do so up 
to the day on which I left the ship, that we had been 


deluged with shrapnel. It was certainly surprising that 
anyone on the upper deck remained unhit. 

The flag lieutenant, one P by name, had a 

remarkable escape. The secretary asked him what he 

had done to his cap during the night. P took it 

off, and there was a large rent where a splinter, which 
must have been shaped something like a skewer, had 
entered his cap just above his ear and gone out again 

through the crown. P had felt nothing. This 

sounds almost impossible, but I can vouch for its abso- 
lute truth. 

There were other curious escapes. 

O , the paymaster, was sitting in the decoding 

office under the waist when the action began. A shell 
came through the side, passed through the canvas walls 
of the decoding office and burst near the ward-room, 

taking a man's head off en route. O " felt a 

wind " ! 

H. B was leaning over the ledge of the after- 
control when a shell passed through a bracket support- 
ing the ledge he was leaning over. From here it went 
through the funnel and burst with deadly effect in the 
inside of a gun shield of one of the guns on the dis- 
engaged side. 

The Commodore walked round the upper deck at 
about 9 o'clock, and was loudly cheered. 

The morale of the crew was splendid. 

It suddenly occurred to me that I might as well go 
and have a look at my cabin. I got through the water- 
tight doors and discovered an extraordinary scene of 
confusion in the foremost cabin flat. Three shells had 
burst therein, and one had apparently chosen my cabin 
for its final effort. The place was smashed to pieces, 
and water was splashing in through a small hole in the 
ship's side. 

I've only seen one sight comparable to it, and that 
was the inside of a German submarine after a strong 

158 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

party of souvenir hunters had been invited to go round 

I paddled about, feeling like a lost soul, for a few 
moments in what had been a rather fashionable cabin, 
and then retired, closing the water-tight door on the 
beastly scene. 

My first impulse, which I obeyed, was to find S. B 

and one or two others and invite them to look at their 
cabins even thus can joy be extracted from the sor- 
rows of others. 

To return to the movements of the ship. 

As soon as it was daylight, squadrons had sorted 
themselves out, and we searched about until we dis- 
covered the Lion and other battle-cruisers, to whom we 
attached ourselves. 

A Zepp passed overhead at 10 a.m., but otherwise we 
saw no signs of the enemy, though we cruised about in 
different directions. 

At noon it became evident that the Huns had got in, 
and so the signal was made for the Fleet to return to its 

Soon after lunch on our way north we passed the bow 
of a destroyer sticking up out of the water, and near by 
we steamed through an immense oily and smooth pool 
of water, which doubtless marked the resting-place of 
some great ship. 

In the afternoon the Commodore held a short service 
in the waist. It was a moving scene. Overhead the 
main-top mast, which had been half-shot through, 
swayed giddily about and seemed likely to go over the 
side or come down on the boat deck at any moment. 
In serried lines the officers and men stood bare-headed 
round the Commodore, who read a few of the wonderful 
prayers for the use of those at sea. I think we all felt 
strangely moved. 

That night the weather became nasty, and we had 
trouble with the temporary shores and plugs that had 


been improvised for the holes near the water-line. We 
had to heave to for short periods. I spent most of the 
night either on the bridge or searching for a sleeping 

Next day we continued on our course for Rosyth, 
which place we reached at 2 p.m. We were the last 
ship of the Battle-cruiser Force to enter harbour, and 
as the battle-cruisers had been in since 2 a.m. our 
belated appearance caused much relief amongst certain 
ladies ashore. 

On our way in we had buried a poor fellow, who had 
lain like a marble statue on the ward-room table for 
thirty-six hours. There were no injuries upon him he 
died of shock. I used to go in and look at him ; he 
seemed so peaceful and still that it was almost impos- 
sible to believe that in that body life was yielding inch 
by inch to death. 

The burial service at sea is the most poignant of all 
ceremonies. Doubtless he had welcomed the sight of 
May Island many times as we returned from trips in 
the North Sea, and as his body slid from beneath the 
Union Jack into the waters bubbling along our side 
there was a silence in which as if by a prearranged 
signal the voice of the lookout floated aft " Land on 
the port bow." It was May Island. 

As soon as we had anchored, hospital drifters came 
alongside, and the wounded were lifted out in cots and 
transferred to an adjacent hospital ship. 

It was this afternoon that a reaction began to set in. 
Everyone was very snappy and irritable, there were 
horrible rumours (with a basis of truth, I regret to say) 
that men landing from ships like the Warspite, that had 
been in some time, had been the object of hostile 
demonstrations ashore. 

It was impossible to find out any facts as to what 
damage the Germans had sustained ; and our own 
losses had been onty too apparent. There were de- 

l6o NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

pressing gaps in the lines of battle-cruisers where the 
three lost ships had been in the habit of lying. 

I felt very miserable, largely due, I think, to lack 
of sleep, and to the fact that the ward-room being unin- 
habitable, and my cabin wrecked, I had nowhere to go 
to. There was also the official communique a bit of a 
damper. I felt I wanted to burst into tears, hit some- 
body, or do something equally foolish. 

At 5 p.m. a definite order to go into the basin of 
Rosyth dockyard relieved the strain, and, with a job in 
hand, everyone became cheery again. As we were 
slowly wharf ed through the lock gates, large crowds 
assembled to greet us, chiefly composed of dockyard 
men, and men from the War spite, and survivors of the 
Warrior, which had sunk some 80 miles from the action, 
after being towed by the Engadine. 

The survivors of the Warrior were garbed in a 
mixture of uniform and plain clothes, and were in great 
spirits. They were making much of the men of the 
Warspite, to which ship they rightly ascribed their 
salvation, as had the Warspite not turned in towards 
the German line when she did, there is little doubt the 
Warrior would have followed the Defence in a very 
short space of time. 

Next day most of the officers and crew went on leave, 
a few men under my command being left to superintend 
the refit. 

The Commodore shifted his broad pennant to the 
Birmingham whilst we were out of action. 

Before our ship's company went on leave Sir David 
Beatty came on board and made us a very charming 
and complimentary speech. 

During the three weeks in which we were being 
repaired at Rosyth, we had a great many visitors on 
board, including His Majesty the King, to whom I had 
the honour of being presented. 

The Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) and a party also 


visited the ship. I was showing him my cabin, and he 
commented on the damage to my private effects. I was 
about to strike when the iron was hot, and hint at the 
desirability of bringing pressure to bear on the Treasury 
to treat all claims in a broad-minded manner, when I 
suddenly recollected that, as my guest was First Lord 
of the Treasury, he might think it somewhat pointed if 
I enlarged on the iniquities of that department. 

Large parties of technical sight-seers came up from 
the Admiralty, the gunnery school (Whaley), and the 
torpedo school (Vernon), and swarmed over the ship, 
asking innumerable questions and taking notes. 

The Tiger, Princess Royal, and Warspite were in 
dock alongside us, and I had a good look at all their 
damage, and heard many interesting stories of their 
share in the action. 

On the iyth June I went on leave, and was more 
than glad to see dear old London again. When I 
returned in a penniless condition, on the 2gth June, 
we were once more back in our old billet off Charles- 
town and flagship of the Second Light Cruiser Squad- 

In one way we were changed. There were sixty new 
faces amongst the ship's company, and as these new 
arrivals had joined no ordinary ship, but a ship with a 
reputation, we started as hard as we could to train them 
up in the way they should go. 




WE now know as a result of the Great Surrender 
that the German Fleet received such a hammering 
on the 3ist May, 1916, that from that date they decided 
never to try an engagement with heavy ships again. 

That they did not lose more ships than they did, 
although at least ten were struck by British torpedoes, 
may be ascribed to the excellent underwater construc- 
tion and subdivision into minute compartments of their 
ships, coupled with the fortune of war. 

The causes of the constructional defects which led to 
the loss of three battle-cruisers on our side by single 
shots, which striking anywhere else would have done 
little harm, were investigated in due course, and no 
good purpose can be served by trying to inquire into 
these things in the pages of a book of this description. 
The constructional defects themselves were remedied 
in a short time as a result of a conference held im- 
mediately after the battle. 

Our system of fire control, possibly inferior to the 
German system in the opening moments of an action, 
but certainly superior after the first few minutes, was 
modified with a view to improving the rate of hitting 
when action commences. 

The great value of aerial scouts was shown at Jut- 

Had Scheer made use of Zeppelins during the after- 
noon of the 3 ist he would have known exactly when to 
break off action in order to avoid having to meet Sir 
John Jellicoe. 



The importance of " light " conditions, from the 
gunnery point of view, was shown to be very great. 
Our handicap in this respect during the battle-cruiser 
action was very noticeable. There was only one way to 
avoid it, and that was to break off action ; but that's 
not the way to conduct war when the enemy is sighted 
for the first time for sixteen months. 

As to whether the distance between the Grand Fleet 
battleships and the battle-cruisers was excessive, I 
prefer to offer no opinion. The facts are plain, let each 
judge for himself. One thing is certain, if the Battle 
Fleet had been in visual touch with our battle-cruisers, 
there would have been no battle. 

One of the cleverest tactical moves of the day was the 
German smoke-screen. It was executed with precision 
and accuracy at the psychological moment, and taught 
us a lesson as to the value of smoke-screens when 
properly used. 

There is a lot of talk flying about and a certain 
amount of nonsense has been written (much more to 
follow, I'm sure) about what the leading divisions of 
our Battle Fleet ought or ought not to have done. As 
I was at the other end of the line I don't propose to add 
to the aforesaid flood of eloquence by the critics on the 

At 8.30 p.m. Scheer was in a very nasty hole. He'd 
not done badly up till then, for he had inflicted con- 
siderable losses on the British battle-cruisers, though his 
subordinate Hipper's flagship, the Lutzow, was in a 
sinking condition, and he had managed to remain under 
the fire of the British Battle Fleet for a sufficiently 
short period to avoid annihilation. 

But, and it must have been a very big BUT, it was a 
case of out of the frying-pan into the fire, for he was in 
a position which, to the commander of an inferior fleet 
should be like holy water to the Devil. Scheer found 
himself being forced out into the North Sea with Sir 

164 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

John Jellicoe insinuating himself between him and his 
bases in the Bight. 

There must have been some anxious moments in the 
staff-room of the German Fleet flagship between 9 p.m. 
and 3 a.m. 

Scheer had three choices : 

(1) Try and get home round the Skaw. 

(2) Try and get into the Bight by Horns Reef. 

(3) Try and get into the Bight by Borkum. 

And the British destroyer flotillas hanging on to him 
like grim death throughout the dark hours. 

His battleships rammed them, they bumped down 
their sides, so close the guns couldn't depress enough to 
hit them. 

His battleships sank some by 6-inch gunfire, others 
came out of the night. Like a nightmare they were 
with him till the day. Day ah ! that was the rub. 

Another day action must be avoided at all costs. 
Choices (I) and (3) meant daylight and many miles to 
go, and so I believe for this reason he chose (2). 

"It is true," I can imagine him saying, " the 
British Fleet is there, but I may miss them, and at the 
worst it will be a colossal mix-up in the night all in 
favour of the weaker side." 

And so, as soon as he had shaken Sir David off at 
about 9.30 p.m., he sent the Fourth Scouting Group to 
the south-east to reconnoitre. As already described, 
this group of German light cruisers encountered the 
Second Light Cruiser Squadron and retired back to the 
west minus the Frauenlob. 

When the news of this engagement reached Scheer 
he must have felt that it would be well-nigh impossible 
for him to get to Horns Reef without encountering the 
British Fleet. 

However, the hours of darkness were few, and he 
pushed east in detached divisions of battleships con- 
tinually being harassed by our destroyer flotillas. 


Certain evidence at my disposal justifies me in saying 
that the main body of the German Fleet crossed our 
wakes between u p.m. and I a.m., a few miles to the 
northward of us. We were about 5 miles to the north 
of the tail of the British Battle Fleet, and there is reason 
to believe that at least one big German battle-cruiser 
passed ahead of us and astern of the Fleet. (See Fig. 6.) 

Once the Germans were well to the eastward they 
steered south, and as at dawn the British Grand Fleet 
turned north again, the Germans were slipping south 
through their minefields and coastal channels. Had the 
day been moderately clear we should have seen them, 
but the visibility was about 2 miles, and hidden from 
each other by the mist, we passed on opposite courses, 
probably scarcely 10 miles apart. 

At 10 a.m. we were once more sweeping south, but by 
that time they must have been practically home. 

How had we missed them ? 

How had they crossed our wakes during the night 
without our Battle Fleet knowing exactly where they 
were in the morning ? 

There are a great many contributory causes to this 
misfortune from our point of view. 

It must be admitted that certain sections of the 
British Fleet were in touch with the Germans until 
dawn these were our destroyer flotillas. It was from 
them that information could have come. 

One destroyer, at the least, did send a wireless 
message reporting exactly where the Huns were. 

I am told it was jammed by Telefunken. The 
Germans were fully alive to the necessity of spoiling 
our wireless signals and the ether jangled with dis- 
cordant and high-power Telefunken wireless notes. 

It must also be remembered that the Tipperary 
(Captain D.'s destroyer) was blown up, and in the heat 
and fury and bewildering uncertainty of the continuous 
night attacks it is very probable that several people 

l66 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

thought others were doing the reporting. It is so easy 
to sit down comfortably, two or three years after the 
event, and say what might have been done ; but, when 
the first Fleet action of the war is fought, everything 
can hardly be expected to " develop according to plan." 
I wish to mention another point. The British Grand 
Fleet has been the hub of the Allied wheel during 
this war. 

In my opinion it is absurd to say, as has been said, 
that once battle was joined, the above fact should have 
no place in the minds of those who directed the move- 
ments of the Fleet. That it did not weigh unduly in 
those minds is my firm personal opinion. 

Amongst other tactical lessons which were brought 
home to our ship in a very forcible manner, was the fact 
that searchlights, unless used with great care, can be of 
more harm than value to the side using them. 

The difficulty of challenging doubtful craft at night 
was emphasized. The first ship to start a flashing sig- 
nal gets a broadside in reply if the other ship is enemy. 

I need hardly say that a book could be written 
dealing in detail with the strategical and tactical 
aspects of Jutland, from the great deployment into 
battle of the Grand Fleet down to the medical arrange- 
ments in the various classes of ships. 

Such things are beyond the scope of this book. 

Again, in the personal account of the action which I 
have endeavoured to set out on the previous pages, 
I have omitted many facts which, though of my know- 
ledge, did not come under my observation or affect in 
any way the ship in which I served. 

Such incidents are the destruction of the armoured 
cruiser Black Prince by one stupendous salvo from a 
German battleship at point-blank range in the middle 
of the night, or the hazardous work of the Abdiel, 
which ship laid down a minefield in the approaches to 
the Bight whilst the night action was going on mines 


which were subsequently heard to detonate by one of 
our submarines which was lying on the bottom some 
30 miles away. 

I myself have an impression of the after-effects of 
Jutland which stays obstinately in my mind. It was 
on the 3rd June, and the embargo on people leaving the 
dockyard had been removed. I decided to go to 
Dunfermline, and walking past the shell-scarred battle- 
cruisers I went through the gates and boarded a tram. 

It was packed, and the air of excitement and babel 
of noise were intense. Doubtless the action, I thought, 
and listened to hear what they were saying. 

Not so. 

The cause of the excitement was a football match 
in which Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath strove together 
in a League Semi-Final. 

We are a remarkable nation and doubtless that is 
why Providence has allowed us a remarkable Empire. 



THERE was a pause for breath after the Battle of 
Jutland, during which period both the Hun and our 
own yards were busy. 

Rosyth proved itself to be of untold value, and, 
though not supposed to be in a finished state, coped 
with three large ships and the Southampton. 

A great many dockyard workers came up temporarily 
from Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. The 
success of Rosyth was largely due to the personality of 
the Commodore in charge, of whom many amusing 
stories are in circulation. 

He lived in a tin shed in the centre of the yard, and 
was reported to be in the habit of convening meetings 
of dockyard officials at any hour of the day or night, if 
he considered the matter to be at all urgent. 

He spared no one less than himself, and was a relent- 
less worker. He was to be seen walking slowly about 
the yard with an eye on everything and everybody ; at 
his approach parties of workmen were galvanized into 

He had a strong dislike to fast driving in the dock- 
yard ; and one day I went past him on a motor 

The policeman at the gate told me that I was to 
report myself at the Commodore's office. Full of fear, 
I repaired to his quarters, where he asked me why I had 
driven furiously in the precincts of the yard ? 

I murmured something about " only going six miles 
an hour, sir." 



He fixed me with a stern look, and replied, " There 
is one speed in this yard, MY speed." 

I saluted and withdrew. 

Yet with all the enormous work and responsibility on 
his hands after Jutland, it was through a telegram from 
him that my people first heard I was all right. 

There were many conferences going on at this time 
both in the Battle-cruiser Force at Rosyth and the 
Battle Fleet at Scapa, to consider the various technical 
aspects of Jutland, and at the conclusion of these we 
(Second Light Cruiser Squadron) went up to Scapa to 
shoot. We particularly needed this in the Southampton 
owing to our large new draft, some of whom had never 
heard a gun go off. 

Just before we left we sold the clothing bags and 
effects belonging to the ratings who had been killed. 
In the Navy if a man is lost, and his dependants do not 
want it, his clothing is sold by auction, on the upper 
deck. It was a sad sight to see the odd thirty-five bags 
piled up in a heap. 

The sailor is a most generous man, and, on these 
occasions, flannel collars worth zs. sell for 155., and are 
then thrown in again, especially if the man has left a 
widow. All our widows were also being well looked 
after in other ways by officers' wives. 

On the way up to Scapa a new R.N.R. lieutenant, 

P by name, whose ambition in life was to get into 

a Q-boat T (but to his annoyance he had come to us to 
relieve a fellow wounded at Jutland), found himself on 
watch alone at 3 a.m. 

He wished to switch on a shaded light in the chart 
table, so finding a small switch painted red, he turned it 
on. The immediate effect was not noticeable, but in 

about 90 seconds P was astonished to see a crowd 

of half-dressed officers headed by the Commodore burst 
on to the bridge, whilst every hatch to the upper deck 

1 Mystery ship. 

170 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

vomited forth semi-naked sailors. Shouts of " P2 
gun cleared away ! " " ?3 ready ! " "82 cleared 
away ! " etc. etc., resounded through the ship, more and 
more sailors struggled on to the upper deck, until poor 
P felt quite bewildered. 

It was then explained to him, somewhat forcibly, 
that he had switched on every alarm rattler in the ship. 

Amidst the curses of 300 officers and men, P 

resumed his solitary vigil. 

After the usual orgy of gunnery and torpedo at 
Scapa we returned to Rosyth. 

Meanwhile the Hun had been preparing a little 
booby trap for the British Fleet, and to give the Devil 
his due we did put one foot into it. 

On the i8th August we were at sea, ahead of the 
battle-cruisers and steaming down towards the Dogger 
Bank. Forty or fifty miles astern of us we knew that 
the Grand Fleet were coming south at their best speed. 

The bait was the High Seas Fleet, which were re- 
ported by the Harwich force to be well over to the 
west in the southern part of the North Sea. From the 
chart it looked as if we stood a fairly good chance of 
forcing them to action at about 2.30 p.m. 

The day was fine and seemed full of promise. 

Somewhere about 7.30 a.m. the Nottingham was 
torpedoed at a position several miles on our port beam. 
As far as I remember, I think one of the survivors told 
me that it took three torpedoes to put her down. 

Some of the crew got away on rafts and in boats, 
but a good many people, including the captain, were 
in the water for half an hour, until picked up by 
destroyers. She went down quite slowly by the head, 
and we heard afterwards that when her forecastle sank 
flush to the water her captain formed up the officers 
and men who were still remaining into a procession, 
which solemnly goose-stepped down the forecastle in 
single file, and so into the sea. 


It was after breakfast that we heard definitely that 
she had gone, and that destroyers were taking the 
survivors, fortunately numerous, into Newcastle. 

The loss of the Nottingham was felt very severely in 
the Southampton. We had done so much together, and 
knew each other so intimately, that to lose her was like 
losing one of the family. This feeling of camaraderie, 
which exists in various degrees in all squadrons, was 
especially strong in the Second Light Cruiser Squadron, 
and we all hung together throughout the war, and felt 
proud to belong to the Second Light Cruiser Squadron. 

We were cruising south at 10.30 a.m. with destroyers 
in company, when one of the latter suddenly increased 
to full speed and dashed ahead from a position about 
half a mile on our starboard beam. As she did so she 
began to flash a signal to us. Letter by letter it came 

" F-E-R-I-S-C-O-P-E A-H-E-A-D O-F Y-O-U." 

Before it was completed we had rung down for full 
speed, and were making a sharp turn to port, whilst 
between decks, every door that wasn't closed was being 
shut. For ten minutes I felt rather as if I were walking 
on quicksands, but at the end of that period we knew 
that we must be outside the radius of that particular 
Fritz, so we resumed our course and speed on the screen. 

At noon we heard from the Harwich forces who were 
in touch with the Huns that the latter were steaming 
east at high speed, and all our hopes faded away ; we 
lost them by about two hours. After lunch we retired 
to the northward and caught a distant view of the 
Battle Fleet, lines of battleships, watched over by kite 
balloons and surrounded by busy destroyers. 

At half-past three, whilst on our way north, we 
sighted a large German submarine on the surface. He 
was about six or seven miles away. Just as we were 
going to give him a broadside, he seemed to melt into 
the skyline he had dived. Shortly after this, the 

172 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Falmouth was torpedoed, a few miles on our starboard 
beam. Destroyers and other salvage vessels made a 
great attempt, lasting throughout the night to get her 
into the Humber, but she gave up the struggle and sank 
in sight of the English coast. She was hit either four 
or five times. 

By tea-time this submarine business was getting 
beyond a joke, and it was with great pleasure that we 
welcomed what poets call " The shades of night." I 
am uncertain as to how often the battleships and battle- 
cruisers saw submarines or were fired at, but I know 
that for them the day held plenty of thrills. The Ger- 
mans came out with a fantastic tale of torpedoing and 
blowing up a battleship details were given, including 
the height of the flames which went up " above her 
funnels." I can only suppose that this story emanated 
in the brain of an officer who wanted an Iron Cross. 

At the close of the day it was evident that the High 
Seas Fleet had been a lure to draw us over an area in 
which Fritzes were plentiful. They got to " wind- 
ward " to the extent of two light cruisers, and on the 
whole, though we were " had," the Fritzes certainly 
ought to have got home on our Battle Fleet. I am 
certain that had British submarines had a similar 
opportunity they would have hit at least three big ships 
or perished in the attempt. 

On getting back to Rosyth we settled down to the 
old routine. I seem to have had a grievance at this 
period, for I wrote : 

"Aug. 27, 1916. This confounded Dark Night 
Patrol has come on again. We went out and did our 
turn, and had very good weather, but we can't hope for 
much more of it. 

" We are now Emergency Squadron at short notice. 
It is a curious fact that the smaller the ship the more 
strenuous time does she have. Note this for future 
wars ! But on second thoughts I wouldn't change. 


" For instance, the battle-cruisers have quite a com- 
fortable time ; they only go to sea on genuine stunts 
and they've each got a place like the body of a Rolls- 
Royce perched up on the bridge, in which I presume 
the officer of the watch walks at his ease. When in 
harbour they are nearly always at four hours' notice. 

" Then there are the three light cruiser squadrons, 
containing eleven of us at present, as we are only 
Southampton, Dublin, Birmingham, and the First and 
Third Squadrons. We have a moderately strenuous 
time ; the little crosses we have to bear are 

" (a) There is always one of us Emergency Squadron, 
which is like hanging on to a split yarn by the 
skin of one's teeth. 

" (b) When there is no moon, one of us is always out 
on a D.N.P. 

" (c) Odd stunts of no interest. 

" Lastly, there are the destroyers. 

" These little ships seem to be continually nipping 
in and out in a perpetual bustle of excitement ; and it is 
quite habitual for them to lie at one hour's notice when 
in harbour. I hate one hour's notice, and whenever we 
get to that stage, I want to go to sea. 

" During the day, every time a flag goes up one 
thinks it a steaming signal, and at night I can't get to 
sleep, as I'm so certain I'm going to be called and told 
we're off. I should think it must be like that in France, 
only worse, much worse, when attacks are postponed. 

" Sept. 4, 1916. As we were Emergency Squadron 
we had every expectation of being the sacrificial lamb 
for D.N.P. to-night. 

" In the middle of the forenoon we were quite elated 
to hear that the Royalist, who is down here temporarily 
from Scapa, was to do it instead of us. However, the 
arrival of three envelopes from the Lion, and sundry 
other signs, told us that we were ticked off for a routine 

174 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" I hope something happens. 

" At 6 p.m. three battle-cruisers of the Second Battle- 
cruiser Squadron, ourselves, and six destroyers left the 
base and went easterly. 

" We picked up a gale almost at once, and during the 
first watch a heavy sea landed on the bridge, burst in 
the bridge opposite the wheel, smashed up a searchlight, 
carried away the bridge ladder, and did other damage. 
The gunner (T ) had his head cut open. 

" When I went up for the middle it was a disgusting 
night. I held out till 3 a.m., and had great hopes of 
keeping the enemy at bay till 4 a.m., when I knew 
that I could laugh at him in my bunk. 

" Drink was the cause of my downfall, like many a 
good man before me. I foolishly drank cocoa at 3.15 
the result was instantaneous. All to-day (Sept. 5, 
1916) we have been wallowing about towards the Danish 
coast. We have been at action stations all day. I 
hear we go home to-night. 

" Sept. 16, 1916. Jutland Honours List came out 
and caused a good many smiles and heart-burnings 
too, I dare say. 

" Oct. 4, 1916. Up at Scapa Dublin and ourselves 
did a sweep lasting forty-eight hours in the Dogger 
Bank direction. 

" Oct. 7, 1916. Left Scapa and came back to Rosyth. 
There was some sweep in the Dogger Bank area on the 
tapis, and Birmingham and ourselves were detailed for it. 

" Oct. 18, 1916. The day appointed for our depart- 
ure, it blew so hard that it was quite impracticable for 
destroyers to keep the sea outside, so the affair was 
postponed for twenty-four hours. Next day we were 
again all of a quiver during the morning. But it was 
still blowing very hard, and once more it was postponed. 

" Next day we were told to start, and we did. So at 
noon, with four Torpedo-boat Destroyers in company, 
we shoved off. 


" By 5.30, the wind having veered to W.N.W., we 
began to feel it as we got away from the land. Two of 
our destroyers had their bridges smashed in, so we sent 
them all back. At 8 p.m. we were labouring along in a 
heavy sea, and had to ease speed to eight knots. At 
9 p.m. we received a wireless to return to base. We 
anchored the ship at 2.30 a.m., a task I performed and 
found a chilly one. 

" Turned out at 6.30 a.m. and coaled ship. 

" At noon we received a signal to revert to four hours' 
notice for steam. We were hastily shifting for a run 
ashore when at 12.30 we received a signal ' Southamp- 
ton and Birmingham raise steam with all despatch and 
report when ready to proceed.' 

" A collection of snappy officers gathered round the 
ward-room stove to curse the gentleman on the staff, 
unknown to us, who was responsible for all this counter- 
marching. I had my gaiters on, and registered a vow 
not to remove them till the anchor left the bottom. 

" At 2.40 p.m., five minutes before we were due to 
weigh, a signal came cancelling everything and putting 
us back at four hours' notice." 

It was about this time that we heard that our very 
old and trusted friend the Birmingham was due to 
leave the squadron and pay off owing to " boileritis," 
an affliction of the boiler tubes which few light cruisers 
have escaped, at least speaking of those built before the 
war. Whilst on this subject it should be recorded that 
whereas before the war a ship of the Southampton class 
would steam about on cruises at a speed of 14 knots 
with a quarterly full speed trial for a few hours, during 
the war she never went less than 20 knots if the weather 
permitted her to do so. 

Yet notwithstanding this great difference between 
peace and war-time practice, added to the greater 
distance steamed, the British Fleet was marvellously 

176 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

free from engineering troubles. Which was a feather 
in two caps. Firstly, in the cap of the engineering 
firms of the country ; and secondly, it was one in the 
cap of our engineer officers. 

But to resume. 

When we heard that the Birmingham was really 
going to desert us, after three years' comradeship, it was 
decided that we must dine their mess en masse. 

After several false starts, due to short notice, 
" panics," " flaps," and similar whatnots, the great 
night arrived. We were at four hours' notice, the Hun 
was reported to be well up the canal, and we prepared 
to forget the war for a few hours. 

Extra tables were squeezed into the mess, which was 
packed. Our local artists (the two doctors) did water- 
colours on the backs of the menu cards, each one 
representing an incident in the Birmingham's past 

The Commodore came in and made a speech, the 
band played noisily, the mess-man surpassed himself, 
and the wine caterer produced some champagne he had 
been hiding till the end of the war. After dinner we 
all went up to the picture palace in the waist and saw 
Charlie, after which we repaired to the ward-room and 
" harmony ensued," as the local paper would have 
said. A special feature was a topical song in honour of 
the Birmingham, the chorus of which was simple ; it 
consisted of the Birmingham's list of officers as shown 
in the Navy List. There were fifteen verses ! But it 
was encored in toto. 

At ii p.m. the order was passed that " coats will 
be taken off." This operation, by virtue of the fact 
that it removes all signs of rank as well as the most 
expensive portion of a naval officer's uniform, permits 
of much violent exercise being taken. 

The centre of attractions in the carnival which 
followed were : 




Two very simple articles of furniture, and yet what a 
lot can be done with them. 

For instance. " Ye olde arme-chair " is placed in an 
open space, and a gallop started on the piano, tempo 
con fuoco. Everyone lines up in two lines, facing 
each other, with the chair between them. At the word 
Go, the leading officer of the line facing the front of the 
chair runs and leaps at it feet foremost. This pivots 
the chair on its hind legs, and with a crash he lands 
sitting in it with the chair's back on the ground. The 
leader on the other side now rushes forward and, leap- 
ing into the chair, strikes the forward edge of the seat, 
and pivoting again, the chair resumes its normal 
position. The game gets faster and faster, and the 
chair rocks backwards and forwards like a pendulum 
until one of its legs breaks. 

" Ye round table " is of the three-legged variety with 
a top about 5 feet in diameter. With the table one 
can play many games, a good one being " Swat the 

Three strong officers seize the table by its legs and, 
holding it as a shield before them, rush round the mess 
trying to pin a fly between the top of the table and the 
ship's side. It was not uncommon with us for the flies 
to combine and, by exerting superior pressure, nip the 
" swatters " between the end of the table legs and the 
side of the mess. After a short bout of this game, the 
top usually came off, due to some ambitious gentlemen 
trying the " round the world on a wheel " stunt, or the 
" great gyroscopic turn." 

On the night which was ever after spoken of as 
" Birmingham's night," we did all these things and 
ended up with free dancing a la Mordkin and Pavlova. 


178 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

A healthy row with our new commander at 12.30 a.m. 
on the quarter-deck concluded a memorable evening. 
And, as the great diarist would have written 

" And so to bed, no one foxed, it being time of war, 
all save myself (not foxed), but not to bed, for I had a 
plaguy middle watch to keep." 

On the 28th November Sir David Beatty hoisted his 
flag as Acting Admiral in command of the Grand Fleet. 
This was the first of many changes, one of which hit us 
very hard, as our Rear- Admiral was appointed away to 
hoist his flag in the Orion. I think he felt leaving the 
ship as much as we felt losing him and his staff and 
that was a great deal. 

He was succeeded by Commodore C. F. Lambert, 
with Captain Lecky as captain of the ship, who relieved 
Captain Crawfurd, who had relieved our Commander 
Rushton, promoted to captain over Jutland. 

The new Commodore took up his appointment a day 
or two before Christmas. He walked round the 
divisions on Christmas Day, and on arriving at the first 
division said 

" What division is this ? " 

" Boys' division, sir ! " 

" Ha ! I wish the boys a Merry Christmas." Then 
turning to the officer of the division he said 

" When was their underclothing mustered last ? " 

The gunnery lieutenant was so taken aback by this 
sudden broadside that he could only mutter in an abso- 
lutely inarticulate manner, whilst I began to tremble in 
my shoes lest he should ask to see my divisional cloth- 
ing book, which at that moment was far from ready for 
inspection. However, I was spared the shame of 
exposure ! 

A day or two after the new Commodore arrived on 
board, we went to Scapa, and from that base we were 
detailed for a vile patrol between the Faroe and Shet- 
land Islands, in typical January weather. We arrived 


at Scapa at 5 p.m. on the I5th and started coaling 
at once. 

This is what I wrote about that coaling, the next day. 

" It was the most abominable coaling I have ever 
taken part in, and I have done 192 since the war 
started. An ugly great whelp of a collier came along- 
side (it was of course dark), and after a great deal of 
juggling we found that we could just use three or four 
holds, by landing the foremost hoist on the forecastle. 

" Her derricks were not long enough, and B and 

myself were unable to get hoists from our holds over the 
ship's boat-deck. Each hoist as it came up had to be 
pulled in by the party inboard, and released at the 
critical moment by the winch-man in the collier. This 
entailed very nice judgment on his part, and it was 
absolutely essential to success that he should be able to 
watch the hoist the whole time. 

" The mate of the collier told me that ' she had come 
by an accident, and that the exhaust steam-pipes from 
her winches were a little defective.' He lied her 
winches had no exhaust pipes at all, they had been 
broken off at the scuppers. 

" As soon as I raised my first ten bags up to test the 
gear, dense clouds of steam rose between the two ships, 
and completely obscured the Southampton. 

" It began to rain. 

" For an hour and a half not a bag of coal was got on 
to the Southampton's deck. 

" In the wet coal-dust, and in the crude glare of 
electric arc lights, each officer fought his winch and 
tried to devise some methods of either condensing the 
exhaust steam or leading it out of the way. I tried wet 
sacks the steam laughed at them ; eventually we all 
found that the only partial remedy were lengths of 
hose-pipes tied over the broken exhaust pipes and triced 
up the rigging. These kept on blowing off or splitting, 
and slowly the night dragged on. The men got more 

180 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

and more weary and bored with the operation, and as 
the hours slowly succeeded each other the collier's gear 
began to break down. 

" We eventually finished at 2.30 a.m., and sat down 
to a much-needed sardine supper. 

" By Jove ! she was a bitch of a ship, and I would 
dearly love to kill the coaling officer who landed us with 
her. I find she hasn't coaled a ship for fifteen weeks. 
I suppose they all know about her here, and she is 
reserved for unsuspecting strangers like ourselves. It 
appears that she was a banana ship before the war, and 
the sooner she gets back to her trade the better. As a 
collier she is too rose-coloured for words. 

" Jan. 22, 1917. We have been out on a good many 
sweeps of one kind and another, and have had a great 
misfortune in the ship. 

" Last Friday morning, at about 7 a.m., when 100 
miles east of May Island, the cover of the navel pipe 
carried away, and as we were plunging into a very con- 
siderable sea, about a hundred tons of water got down 
into the cable lockers. 

" Our first lieutenant and navigator, Ralph Ireland, 
who was temporarily doing executive officer of the ship, 
went down to put a mat over the hole. The mate, the 
gunnery lieutenant, and three men were already on the 

" The ship dipped her nose into the sea, and scooped 
up a big sea which carried every one off their feet. 
When it passed, ' guns ' and the mate were lying in 
the breakwater only bruised, but of the others nothing 
more was ever seen. Clad as they were in sweaters, 
sea-boots, and oilskins, they must have sunk at once 
in the sea that was running. 

" An hour later we read the burial service in the 
waist, when at about the spot where they were lost. A 
driving snowstorm added to the almost unbearable 
melancholy of the service. 


" Ralph Ireland, our Number I, was a great friend of 
mine, with whom only a few hours before I had been 
yarning on the bridge, and but twelve hours before we 
had been rehearsing our parts together in a home-made 
revue we intended to produce. He had come to us 
from the Birmingham when that ship paid oft. His 
death under such tragic circumstances together with 
the three sailors caused a deep gloom in the ship, where 
he was immensely popular. Ireland was a very lovable 
personality brilliantly clever, a King's medallist, an 
athlete, he was marked out for certain advancement in 
the Service. It was not to be, and within a few days of 
his twenty-eighth birthday the North Sea claimed him 
as part of the price of Admiralty. 

" Jan. 29, 1917. Herewith the diary of a ' flap ' 

" 5 a.m. Went to two hours' notice. 

" 12.30 p.m. Sailing. 

" 12.45 p.m. Cancelled one hour's notice. 

" 1.30 p.m. Two and a half hours' notice. 

" 8 p.m. One hour's notice. 

" 10 a.m. Two hours' notice. 

" 12.40 p.m. Sailing. 

" 12.50 p.m. Cancelled. 

" 12.55 p.m. Half an hour's notice. 

" 1.30 p.m. Sailed. Swept up past the Norwegian 
coast, which was looking very picturesque in its winter 
covering of snow ; but it was bitterly cold in the 
fore-top where I had to spend the day. Went to 

" Feb. 9, 1917. A three days' patrol in 62 N. We 
saw one antique German mine. 

" Feb. 17, 1917. Back at Rosyth. 

" Mar. 20, 1917. Made my last trip in H.M.S. 
Southampton, for when we returned to harbour I found 
that, in accordance with my request some months ago, 
I had been appointed to H.M.S. Ramillies on com- 

l82 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" Mar. 25, 1917. Arrived in London. I left H.M.S. 
Southampton yesterday morning. The night before I 
left there was a concert at which I sang a potpourri of 
all my topical songs, and could hardly go on as 
everybody was so nice. They dined me in the ward- 
room, and then insisted on undressing me and putting 
me to bed at I a.m. (May I be allowed to remind any- 
one who may come across this diary that I am a tee- 

" Next morning I left the ship. The band played 
' Lying off Limekilns ' one of my songs which nearly 
led to a free fight between our sailors and those from 
another light cruiser squadron one day when our 
' matelots ' sang it to them ashore and the sailors 
gave me a very nice send-off. 

" It was a very great wrench to part from the South- 
ampton after three years ; but in the Navy these things 
must happen, and I had been considerably longer in 
her than any other officer, and nearly all the men and 
a change is good for everyone. I can never hope to 
serve with nicer mess-mates, or be in a happier ship. 
Long may her name be on the Navy List." 



H.M.S. RAMILLIES is le dernier cri in battleships, 
and I could hardly have chosen a bigger change than 
to have gone from the Southampton to this ship. 

Of the Royal Sovereign class, she is heavily armoured, 
and disposes of eight 15-inch guns and a 6-inch second- 
ary battery each side. At the time when she was 
commissioned, in the spring of 1917, she was unique in 
that she was the first capital ship to be fitted with 
protective " bulges " or " blisters " on her sides as a 
counter to torpedo attack. 

When I left the Southampton she was completing at 
Beardmore's on the Clyde, and was not to be ready for 
some weeks. I filled in time, by first going on leave, 
from which pastime I was ordered to report myself at 
Whale Island, the gunnery school at Portsmouth, and 
rub up my big ship gunnery, as in the Ramillies I had 
volunteered to take charge of the main transmitting 
room and its various jealously guarded secrets. 

On arrival at Whaley, I found a strange and melan- 
choly change had taken place in the three years of war. 
In days of peace Whaley was a scene of " frightful " 
activity from dawn to dusk. One went to Whaley as 
junior officer expecting to be shaken, and no one was 
ever disappointed. At the rising of the lark crowds of 
sub-lieutenants, snotties, yea, even lieutenants and 
sailors, sweated round the obstacle course which exists 
on " THE I SLAND . " As the day began , so it carried on 
at the rush. Walking became a forgotten habit every- 
thing was done at the run, except funeral exercises. 


184 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

The parade ground presented an animated appearance, 
as squads of officers and men, the former invariably 
clad in white flannels and gaiters the outward sign 
of being under instruction were drilled in rifle drill, 
gun drill, and field exercises by brazen-lunged ramrod- 
backed gunners' mates. 

The " Whaley " gunners' mate, with a voice that 
carried a quarter of a mile in a gale of wind, was the 
counterpart of the Sergeant of the Guard : 

" Now class, 'shun ! Stand at EASE ! Wake up in 
the rear rank Sub-Lootenant Jones, sir ! Class, 'shun ! 
Now wot I sez GOES ! " 

And what they did say went, or else the black- 
trousered, horny-eyed, immaculate lieutenant-com- 
manders and commanders who prowled about seeking 
whom they might devour, and never fasting, wanted to 
know the reason why. These were " THE STAFF " 
officers of super-smartness, who had devoted choice 
years of their lives to the study of the great god 

In the instructional sheds and batteries that ring 
round the Island the same furious energy was main- 
tained. Guns' crews sweated and blasphemed in their 
efforts to load a 6-inch gun twenty times a minute 
instead of nineteen. 

Half a mile away across the mud-flats the old three- 
decker Vernon and her appendages lay placidly on 
the water. This was the torpedo school run on some- 
what different lines. More of her anon. Day after 
day the Staff at Whaley laboured from morning to 
night to smarten people up, and stuff them with gun- 
nery, and they performed marvels. 

Day after day the voices of the gunners' mates rose 
on the air with : 

" On the corpse leaving the dead 'ouse, mort-tuary, 
or whatnot, fer the scimitery, or groive, the few-nereal 
party will rest on the arms re-versed, 'anging the 'ead 


on the breast with a melan-choly yet resign 'd arspect." 

Or else : 

" Now the h'objec' of the rebound spring is NOT 
(fortissimo), as some 'ave herroneously said, to absorb 
the recoil of th' gun, BUT on the hobturatin' pad re- 
hasserting himself the mush-room 'ead springin' to the 
front, . . . etc. etc." 

Such is a brief and inadequate sketch of Whaley in 
peace time. Such was my conception of the place I 
was about to join. 

As my cab rumbled over the bridge which separates 
Whaley from the attractions of Portsmouth, I perceived 
the formidable obstructions of the obstacle course and 
shuddered. Ugh ! fancy going over these ropes at my 
age twenty-five and three years of war service, it was 
incredible, and yet strange things happen at Whale 
Island. Yes, very strange things had happened at 
Whaley in the years of war, which I very soon dis- 

The Staff, affable officers temporarily at Whaley on 
their return home from foreign service, and awaiting 
appointments to the Grand Fleet, conversed with 
interested attention to the lieutenant straight from 
the mysterious Grand Fleet itself. 

What was the life like ? 

What were the latest ideas on fire control ? 

What sort of ranges were battle practices done at ? 

What was the anti-submarine gunnery organization 

There were three of us from the Grand Fleet ships 
waiting to go to the Ramillies, and we stood in front of 
the hall fire and laid down the law. 

Once or twice I wandered round the batteries it 
was pathetic ancient old pensioners unfit for sea ser- 
vice quavered out the drill. The classes were often 
composed of elderly R.N.R. officers, fathers of families ; 

l86 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

doing an anti-submarine course, they moved from place 
to place at a dignified walk. You can hardly hunt 
the captain of an i8,ooo-ton liner across a parade 

Then I realized that " for the duration " the focal 
spot of the radiance of gunnery was situated in the 
Grand Fleet, that was the explanation. 

Whaley was being used for experimental work, and 
the training in the elements of gunnery of hundreds of 
R.N.R.s, R.N.V.R.s, officers and men. They came, 
they learnt a few simple facts, and in ten days they 
had gone. 

I decided to do likewise, and departed, to do a special 
course in London by arrangement with the gunnery 
lieutenant of the Ramillies, whom I had not met. The 
readiness with which he agreed to this request on my 
part made me feel sure we should get on together. 

After more leave of about ten days, I was ordered 
to repair to Glasgow to join the ship on commissioning. 
I had always heard that commissioning a big ship was 
a fearful agony, but found the actual event quite a 
peaceful operation. 

Three hundred of our men were already on the spot, 
living in the Town Hall at Dalmuir, and these went on 
board first. 

At 9 a.m. a special train with 500 men on board 
arrived from Devonport, and drew up near the ship. 
As each man got out of the train he was given a com- 
missioning card, which tells him exactly where he has 
got to go, which part of the ship he belongs to, and 
what he must do in various emergencies. 

In the afternoon we exercised, " fire," " collision," 
and " action " stations. 

That night we all slept on board for the first time; 
it was most uncomfortable living in the ship, as there 
was no water on, no lights would work, and the ship 
abounded with dockyard workmen, who made the night 


hideous with pneumatic riveters, electric drills, and 
caulking tools. Sleep was well-nigh impossible. 

On May yth we left Beardmore's, still full of dock- 
yard workers, and towed by six tugs we started down 
the Clyde. 

Magnificent as the ship looked above water, appear- 
ances were deceptive, and all was not well with the 
Ramillies. When she had been launched, she had 
charged across the river and hit the opposite bank. 
This contretemps had damaged her bottom, cracked 
her great stern post, and more or less destroyed the 
larger and more important of her two rudders. 

As there is no dock on the Clyde big enough to take 
the ship, we were faced with the problem of getting 
the vessel to the Gladstone dock at Liverpool, where the 
extent of the damage could be accurately ascertained 
and the necessary repairs carried out. 

We set out down the Clyde at about two o'clock on a 
lovely afternoon, sped on our stately way by the cheers 
of thousands of men and women who had raised up 
this ship, from the bare keel laid down in 1914. 

Of all the acts of modern man, this never ceases 
to astonish me vastly, this gradual assembling of a 
hundred thousand intricate parts, and then their co- 
ordination into one harmonious whole a battleship. 

As we went downstream, four tugs astern and two 
ahead, an aeroplane looped the loop and did other 
stunts just above the tops of our masts. All went well 
until we had just passed Dumbarton Rock, when, with- 
out warning, she sheered off to starboard, and despite 
desperate efforts on the part of the tugs she grounded 
heavily. To make matters worse the tide began to 

All the tugs churned up the water and the mud as 
they struggled to get us off. There were some amazing 
jumbles of tugs round our stern. One tug had her 
mast snapped off like a match by a wire flicking across 

l88 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

like a released violin string, another wire got under the 
paddle-wheel of another tug and threatened to turn the 
whole tug upside down. Greatly alarmed, the crew of 
the tug hastily severed the wire with an axe. 

Our quarter-deck was a mass of seething, writhing, 
coiling of large wires and hemp. A large wire is a 
most dangerous thing when it alternately takes and 
releases a heavy strain. It seems to be possessed with 
almost human intelligence and diabolical mischievous- 
ness ; large wires must be watched very carefully treat 
them with contempt and they will catch you in a coil 
and have your leg off. When they hum, and quiver, 
and sing, stand clear ! they are about to part. We 
completely blocked the traffic both up and down the 
river, and in the Clyde an accumulation soon takes 

At 4 p.m. we suddenly slid off the mud, and nearly 
grounded on the other side of the channel. 

Our troubles had only started. Two miles farther 
on, off Gourock, we grounded bang in the middle of 
the channel. 

Owing to our first delay the tide had fallen too much, 
and we could not get over the bar. It was hopeless to 
try and get on, and we lay there until midnight. As 
the tide fell, our huge blisters on the sides came into 
view, and she looked like a monstrous great fort ; at 
low water we only had 14 feet under our bottom, and 
owing to lack of circulating water the condensers were 
overheating and everything in the engine-room began 
to fill with mud. 

On getting off again it began to blow, and we had 
several narrow squeaks, as the tugs were small and had 
little control over the ship, which dragged them about 
like toys when she yawed. At 2.30 a.m. we more or 
less drifted into deep water off Greenock and thankfully 
let go an anchor. 

These various bumps had not improved our existing 


injuries, but we decided to try and start for Liverpool 
on the loth May. We had four tugs to get us clear 
of the Clyde, and four destroyers and sweepers as escort 
in the open sea. 

As soon as we started, we began to surge about in a 
disconcerting manner, and notwithstanding every effort 
on the part of the tugs, we drifted (there is no other 
word) more or less broadside on through the anti- 
submarine gate, hitting, but not damaging, one of the 
trawlers moored as gate-post. 

Once through the gate we cast off the tugs and tried 
to steer with our own engines. Each time we went 
ahead, she kept perfectly straight until we had reached 
a speed of about 4 knots, whereupon she would swerve 
rapidly either to port or to starboard ; it being quite 
impossible to predict which of the two shores she would 
make a bee-line towards. This behaviour entailed im- 
mediate " Full speed astern both engines " to avert a 

By noon, three hours after our departure, we had 
made good 3 miles towards Liverpool in a series of 
gigantic semicircular swoops. It was now obvious 
that the ship was unmanageable under her engines 
alone, so with four tugs dragging first one way and then 
the other we waddled back to our anchorage, and 
managing to hit off the gate entrance in the arc of one 
swoop we " came to " off the Tail o' Bank at 5 p.m. 
Thus ended our first attempt. 

At the time I wrote : 

" May ii. Bowler-hatted experts from Beardmore's 
are now on board discussing the situation, which seems 
an awkward one. It would be almost impossible for us 
to get to Liverpool on our own under peace conditions, 
and with submarines about it would be madness, 
except that we swerve about so that I don't believe 
they could hit us ! We'd hit either England or Ireland 
though ! Divers are going down to have a look at the 

NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

rudder, and if it is very mis-shapen there is some talk 
of trying to cut it off a big under-water job. The 
question is, how much rudder is down there ? I think 
the best thing would be to have an escort of about 12 
T.B.D.s and then tow a tramp and make her steer 

" There are rumours of a congregation of Fritzes 
outside ; perhaps they have got wind of this entertain- 

" Monday, May 14. On Saturday we tried again, as 
the bowler-hat brigade discovered that only a small bit 
of the large rudder remains. We stayed inside the gate 
this time, and as far as the steering of the ship was con- 
cerned it was a dismal failure. The small rudder has 
about as much effect on her as if I dangled my foot 
over the side, and there was nothing doing at all in the 
direction of steering her with the engines. Once she 
starts swinging one way or the other, she goes on until 
her stern is up in the wind. The only way to get her 
straight is to stop and turn her on her heel. Swooped 
back to our anchorage at 6 p.m. She has got Clyde 
Bolshevism in her plates, and doesn't want to go to the 
war ! 

" The skipper has been summoned to the Admiralty. 

" May 23, 1917. At n a.m. we set out on our 
ticklish journey to Liverpool. Large protuberances 
resembling cantilevers of a fair-sized bridge have been 
tacked on to our stern, one on each quarter. They call 
them ' whiskers,' and the idea is that the stern tow 
ropes shall go round them, and give the tugs a better 
leverage. We had quite an imposing escort, consisting 
of eight sweepers, eight Liverpool tugs (fine fat fellows), 
eight trawlers, and six destroyers. 

" The scheme is to have the sweepers ahead, an outer 
screen of T.B.D.s, and an inner screen of trawlers. 
Four tugs in two tandems tow us forward ; four tugs 
are aft, two on each quarter. The whiskers are useless, 


as the tug masters flatly refuse to use them, saying the 
whiskers would part their wires. 

" We successfully managed the gate entrance, and 
slowly went down river. At I p.m. we passed the 
Cumbraes Light, and at 2.30 p.m., about six miles 
farther on, the trawler Merse, one of our inner screen, 
when distant about a mile on our port bow, struck a 
mine and was blown to atoms. There was a large 
cloud of white and grey smoke, a report, and in a few 
seconds this cleared away and there was nothing except 
an oily patch and a few pieces of wood. 

" She was the senior officer of trawlers' ship, and her 
two officers, including the captain, Lieutenant Fane, 
R.N.R., were in our smoking-room this morning. 
There were no survivors out of the crew of 15. 

" I was on watch at the time, and the ' cat on hot 
bricks ' feeling was rather unpleasant as we slowly 
passed the place where she had gone. We were for- 
tunately able to warn a heavily laden passenger ship 
from Brodick that was steering straight for the spot 
where the Merse went down. At half -past eight we 
drifted past Ailsa Crag, which looked very beautiful 
with the sun sinking behind it. 

" The weather was gloriously fine, which was lucky, 
as she yawed abominably from three to seven points 
off her course. Speed made good 4^ knots ! and our 
contract speed is 23 ! 

" I had the middle watch, and felt very lost 80 feet 
above the water and with 500 feet of ship behind me, 
and 45 feet each side, after the modest dimensions of 
the Southampton. 

" A breeze sprang up which made it very hard to 
steer her. We do it by signalling to the quarter-decks 
with coloured lamps, and by careful manipulation of the 
engines, as one has to be very much on one's guard 
against overrunning the tandems . The tide set against us 
in my watch, and at times we only made good 2 knots ! 

NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" May 23, 1917. Our run from noon yesterday to 
noon to-day was 108 miles. 

" The weather continues fine and hazy, which suits 
us, as I can't imagine what she'd do in the slightest lop. 
We are slowly creeping down with the Isle of Man on 
our starboard beam. A submarine was reported here 
yesterday ; in one way it would be interesting to see 
the effect of a torpedo on these blisters. I think we 
could stomach one. At present (2 p.m.) I am going 
to get my head down for an hour and repair the ravages 
of the middle last night. 

" May 24, 1917. Arrived at Liverpool and lay for 
the day in the stream. 

" It was ludicrous to see Cammell Laird's hard at 
work cutting off the whiskers which had been put on in 
such a hurry at Glasgow and then never used. We 
can't dock till they are off. 

" May 25, 1917. Entered Gladstone Dock, and 
bumped on the way in, but not badly." 

On the 7th September I left H.M.S. Ramillies, and 
left her still in the Gladstone Dock. I had been ap- 
pointed to the torpedo school, H.M.S. Vernon, to do a 
course in torpedo work, electricity, mining, and wireless, 
with the object of emerging at the end of the course 

as a qualified lieutenant (T ) and being appointed 

somewhere as a specialist at an increased rate of 35. a 
day. I had placed my name on the waiting list for the 
Vernon early in 1916, so I was not surprised when my 
appointment came through. 

Thus ended my brief service in the Ramillies, in 
which I made one trip in tow of tugs. 



H.M.S. Vernon, the home of torpedoes and electrics, 
was an old three-decker hulk which lay amidst the mud 
at the upper end of Portsmouth harbour. In actual 
fact she was four old ships three connected together 
by bridges, and the fourth lashed alongside. For a big 
instructional school she suffered from the grave dis- 
advantage of not being alongside a jetty. This was 
being remedied in 1917, as the whole establishment was 
gradually migrating to the gun-wharf, whither the 
mining school, own child to the Vernon, had already 
established itself. 

There were nine of us undergoing the course, which 
lasted six months, with frequent exams. The work was 
fairly strenuous but very interesting, and nobody cared 
how hard he worked during the week, as on Friday 
afternoon, week-ends until Sunday night were available. 

Incidentally, the Whaley week-end was not of such 
generous proportions, being only from Saturday morn- 
ing to Sunday night. 

The Vernon has a totally different atmosphere to 
Whale Island, and the difference between the two 
establishments is reflected in the difference between the 
average torpedo lieutenant and the average gunnery 
lieutenant. It has been said in the Service that the 
" gunnery jacks' " motto is " GUNS, GAITERS, AND 
GHUFF," whilst " Torps " live up to " COOL, CALM, 
AND COLLECTED." Pretending enemies of Whale 
Island say gunnery lieutenants are nothing but 
" GHUFF " ; whilst those who pretend a similar enmity 
to all things that come from the Vernon, say that 

13 193 

194 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

torpedo men are always so calm and collected that 
whenever anything happens they are always asleep. 

However, like the jokes levelled at different branches 
of the Army, all these things make a good story, and in 
actual practice in a ship the gunnery lieutenant and his 
opposite number in the torpedo world are generally 
hand in glove with each other, concocting schemes which 
they think will improve the efficiency of the ship, 
but which everyone else thinks are a confounded 

The naval war at Portsmouth was chiefly visible in 
the movements of the patrol boats. These war- 
designed and quickly built boats did excellent service 
escorting the troop-ships across the Channel. Every 
evening they left the harbour, took a convoy over to 
France, and then hurried back to Portsmouth, arriving 
there at u a.m. They fuelled and were then ready to 
go out again that evening. 

Each boat did this for three weeks and then had a 
week's rest. It was tiring work, but there was always 
a chance of a Fritz. 

Nearly every week-end I was up in London, and I 
was there when the great German spring offensive 
started and continued its irresistible advance. 

It was a wonderful experience to be in the heart of 
the Empire on those days of tremendous peril. I rank 
it second only to Jutland amongst the experiences that 
have interested me most in the war. Day by day the 
line went back on the big map in the club, and one 
began to measure by eye the distance to the Channel 

It was with a feeling of awe that I watched generals 
come in to lunch from the War Office, looking perhaps 
a little more preoccupied than usual, as I wondered 
what they thought about it ; they, who were in the 
know ! 

I felt very helpless, being in the Navy, for surely 

H.M.S. VERNON 195 

those were days in which everyone ought to do some- 
thing, and here was I sitting in front of a map at a club 
it didn't seem right. 

In the streets and restaurants of London there was a 
sense of strain, a tension ; London was bracing herself 
up to hear bad news, and right well she did bear it, as 
day succeeded day and still the Hunnish hordes swept 
on. There was not a sign of any inclination to give in 
in London, or admit any ending to the war except 
eventual victory for the Allies. In tubes, one looked 
over one's neighbour's paper and he said, " They've 
crossed the Somme " 

" Ah !" you replied. 

" If this goes on, we shall have to evacuate the 
Channel ports." 

" But surely " 

" It will only add a couple of years to the war." 

This was the type of conversation that could be 
heard on every side in London. 

The situation was grave, there was no attempt to 
conceal the fact it was seriously grave, and London 
knew it ; but her heart beat as strong as it did in the 
days Napoleon dominated Europe, and Pitt lay dying 
after Austerlitz. 

London never forgets she is the chief city of the 
greatest Empire the world has ever known. It is 
possible to startle London, but she cannot be frightened. 
The first air raid startled London, but she soon treated 
them as a joke in the worst possible taste. 

I saw London startled once. 

It was during the great German advance, and rather 
against my will I joined a party for a dance. None of 
us felt very keen on dancing, but it was being given by 
three soldiers who were leaving for France next day. 
Of those three, but two are left, so I am glad we went, 
if it helped the party at all. 

I was standing in a doorway, when a man in evening 

ig6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

dress came into the house, and came up the stairs. He 
stopped by me and said : 

" Have you heard ? " 

" What ? " I replied. 

" Paris is being bombarded." 

" Nonsense." 

" Paris is being bombarded," he repeated. 

" My dear fellow, how on earth " 

"I've just come from my club, and saw it come 
through on the tape-machine it's official." 

" But how on earth could they ? They're 80 miles 

" Exactly, no details are given ; but I'm a civilian 
and I don't know. I thought if you were in either of 
the Services you could tell me, is it possible ? " 

" I'm in the Navy, but I've met guns, and I don't 
believe it is possible." 

" But it says Paris is being bombarded offi- 

" Well, I give it up," I replied as a third man joined 
us, who had also come from his club and was able to 
confirm the amazing intelligence. 

A hush spread over the room as the news travelled 
round ; half the people were frankly incredulous and 
said so, the other half were bewildered and jolted out 
of their attitude of expecting even the strangest things 
to happen in this war as a matter of course. I believed 
and felt I could dance no more, and walked home. 

Paris La Ville lumiere that charming, flirtatious, 
delightfully naughty girl amongst the cities of the world, 
being lashed by Boche shells. One shuddered at the 
thought, it was like contemplating a pretty girl being 
beaten by a drunkard and it wasn't a matter of con- 
templation, it was an actual fact, just over there, a few 
hundred miles away. Poor Paris ! 

I am afraid I have strayed rather from the title of 

H.M.S. VERNON 197 

my book, but the physical labour of writing entitles the 
scribe to occasional darts into forbidden and therefore 
fascinating lands, otherwise one wearies of the under- 

Life in the Vernon was very like what it is at any 
other big training establishment. Amongst a great 
many facts I was privileged to glean one of the most 
remarkable definitions of an alternating current ever 
put before the scientific world. 

The lecturer was an old gunner called up for the 
duration, and the subject of his discourse to a class of 
newly joined electrical artificers was " Simple Cells." 
One of his class, wishing to show he had heard of 
electricity before, raised his hand and asked what an 
alternating current was. For a moment the old man 
hesitated, then pulling himself together he bellowed at 
the class as follows : 

" The exact understanding of an halternatin' current 
ain't rightly understood by only scientific men ; but I 
SEZ as 'ow it's a positive current a-nippin' along a wire 
follered at a short relapse by a negative current a- 
nippin' along after it, but one don't never catch the 
other no-how, savee ? " 

Beneath this bombardment the heckler bowed his 
diminished head. 

Having overcome all the examinations I added the 
letter (T) to my name in the Navy List, and after a few 
days in town to celebrate the occasion and spend in 
advance some of the extra shillings a day, I was 
appointed to H.M.S. Defiance, the Torpedo School at 
Devonport, for temporary duty on the staff. 

The Defiance consists of two old ships moored within 
a few yards of the north shore of the St. Germans river. 
It has the most delightful situation imaginable. A 
stone 's-throw distant is a lovely garden, on which one 
lands by an automatic ferry. A path winds up the hill 

198 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

through the garden to the Defiance Halt on the Great 
Western Railway. A quarter of a mile away are the 
ship's private golf links, five sporting little holes on a 
promontory jutting out into the river. 

There was plenty of work in the Defiance, and the 
strenuous atmosphere was well to the front. I spent 
all days and part of the nights during the week lecturing, 
setting papers, and correcting the latter. 

At the end of April I was appointed to the Maidstone 
as assistant torpedo lieutenant for duty with the Har- 
wich submarines, and I left the Defiance to enjoy a 
completely new series of experiences. 



THE submarine has ever been a secret thing, and its 
very raison d'etre presupposes secrecy and concealment, 
and this perhaps is why so little is known about sub- 
marines, outside the submarine service itself. The 
ignorance is not by any means confined to the general 
public, but is to be found on an extensive scale in the 
general service of the Navy. 

Before this war, submarine officers naturally knew to 
a certain extent what their boats could do, though it is 
certain that on neither side of the North Sea did the 
average submarine officer realize what great potentiali- 
ties were possessed by the best boats in 1914. 

The rest of the Navy knew very little about sub- 
marines. The average lieutenant, commander, or cap- 
tain looked on submarines as dangerous craft into which 
light-hearted and nerveless officers descended and went 
out to the open sea, escorted by a ship flying a red flag ; 
the submarine then dived and, after an uncertain 
period, rose again in an unexpected spot. Sometimes 
she never came up at all, and it was the general opinion 
in the Service that the submarine fellows fully deserved 
their extra six shillings a day. 

Then came the war. 

Until the advent of the big fleet submarines, towards 
1917, the Grand Fleet hardly ever met a British sub- 
marine. In my three years in the Southampton I met 
British submarines at sea three times, and on two of 
these occasions we thought they were Fritzes. 

The Hogue-Aboukir-Cressy disaster woke everybody 


200 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

up to the submarine menace, and from that day every 
periscope seen at sea was an enemy to every surface 
ship, and the submarine was never given the benefit of 
the doubt, even when on the surface herself. 

When the Germans decided to concentrate on the 
submarine as a weapon with which to paralyse our 
efforts and bring us to our knees, a vast anti-submarine 
organization of destroyers, trawlers, sloops, yachts, P. 
boats, motor-launches, aircraft, mines, nets, explosive 
devices, etc., came into being, and the life of a sub- 
marine at sea became a hard one. 

The work of the British submarines in and out of the 
North Sea has been of a very dangerous nature, as is 
testified by the fact that their casualties in killed are a 
higher percentage of the whole than the casualties in 
killed of either the surface Navy, the Air Force, or the 

Their work in the North Sea has been of two kinds. 
Firstly, they have carried out the work of observation. 
Secondly, they have played a large share in the plans of 
the anti-submarine division at the Admiralty. Their 
work of observation has perhaps been the most im- 
portant of all their duties, though they have, of course, 
attacked and sunk German surface craft on those infre- 
quent occasions when the vision of a man-of-war 
through the periscope has created a red-letter day in 
the monotonous calendar of patrols. 

In the Napoleonic wars Lord Nelson relied on his in- 
shore squadrons, when he was cruising with his fleets 
off Toulon or Brest, for information concerning the 
movements of the enemy. 

In 1914 Sir John Jellicoe was equally anxious to 
obtain information of German movements, but it was 
obviously impossible to keep a squadron of observation 
hovering in the Bight. The Submarine Service stepped 
into the breach, and, though the losses were heavy, 
from 6th August, 1914 to i6th November, 1918, 


British submarines were keeping observation on 
the Bight and reporting by wireless any enemy 

At first, indeed, our submarines had it very much 
their own way, and they dived about with comparative 
impunity inside Heligoland and even nosed about in the 
entrances of the German rivers, one of our boats stick- 
ing on the mud of the German coast for some time. 
But the Germans soon decided to try and drive these 
intruders out of the Bight, and, as it is a comparatively 
small area of water, it was soon infested with every anti- 
submarine device. 

Our boats withdrew slightly, but still the Germans 
found it almost impossible to get to the open sea with- 
out being reported, and still the British boats pene- 
trated into the Bight in search of targets. This " going 
in," as it was called, though eagerly hoped for by sub- 
marine captains, was attended by heavy risks, as the 
way in led between our own minefields and those laid 
by the enemy. Concerning the former, their position 
could be stated with some certainty, but of the latter 
dimensions there was inevitably an element of doubt. 

This reminds me of the classic true story, which has 
already appeared in a poem by " Klaxon," of the 
stoker's remark in a Harwich submarine. The boat 
was in dangerous waters and diving. Suddenly a loud 
bumping noise was heard, and everyone held his 
breath, as it was obviously a mine. The stoker looked 
up from a game of cards and remarked 

" Good old Tirpitz, another b y dud ! " 

The second great work of our submarines in the 
North Sea was anti-submarine work. The German 
submarines had two ways out of the North Sea : Dover 
or north-about. They had three holes into which to 
retire : 

(a) Round the Skaw and through the Belt to Kiel. 

(b) Straight into the Bight, by various secret chan- 

202 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

nels, and thence to Emden, Wilhelmshaven, 
and the Elbe. 

(c) Zeebrugge and Ostend. 

On all lines of approaches to these places known to 
be used by Fritz, and at the exits of the North Sea, not 
to mention those in the outer seas, British submarines 
were to be found. The U.-boats knew that our boats 
were always lying in ambush for them, both on their 
comings in and goings out. 

Though I have never, of course, done it myself, I have 
met and talked with many who have, and I think that 
stalking a submarine in another submarine must be one 
of the most thrilling things in war. Imagine yourself 
in a British submarine on the surface. Suddenly the 
captain raises his glasses, gazes at the horizon, then 
orders " Dive ! " and presses a button which rings an 
alarm in the boat. The Diesel engines are stopped, and 
as those on the bridge scramble down the conning-tower, 
the bows of the submarine begin to go under water. A 
few seconds after the captain has pulled the outer 
hatch down above his head, the waters close over with 
a swirl. 

Once in the control room, the captain gives orders for 
the boat to be taken down to 60 feet, and then orders 
full speed on the electric motors. Before coming down 
he has decided on a rough course which he will steer 
to close the suspicious object. Minutes pass, the cap- 
tain tells the first lieutenant for the sixth time that it 
might be a trawler, but he thinks it's a Fritz. 

The first lieutenant, a sub or junior lieutenant, goes 
forward and satisfies himself for the hundredth time 
that both bow tubes are " standing by." The men are 
at their diving stations, each with his definite job, and 
probably they do not know what is happening the 
captain has been too preoccupied to tell them they 
watch his face for an indication of his thoughts. 

At last the captain decides he will have another look ; 


the speed of the boat is reduced to " slow " in order to 
minimize the feather of the periscope through the 
water, and the boat is brought up to 20 feet below the 
surface. The periscope is raised, the captain stretches 
himself up with it and looks. 

" DOWN PERISCOPE ! Take her 40 feet." 

Three miles away he has seen a fat Fritz ambling 
along on what must be about a south course, at a speed 
of approximately 10 knots. A hasty calculation, and 
the captain orders a fresh alteration of course. 

Two or three minutes later he takes another peep. 

Confound the brute ! he has altered to starboard. 
Can he have seen anything ? As things are it will be 
touch and go whether we can get into range. Such are 
the thoughts that run through the captain's mind as he 
orders his coxswain to steer a fresh course, and demands 
every ampere possible in the electric motors. 

The submarine drives on at the furious speed, for 
under water, of 9 knots. The critical moment is 
approaching. The captain's anxiety communicates 
itself to the boat's crew, and, without being told to do 
so, a hush falls over the men and they converse in 

Speed is reduced, and the torpedo tubes brought to 
the ready. 

The periscope is raised for the last tune, if fortune 
has been kind and our captain's calculations and esti- 
mations accurate. There is the Hun just coming on 
to the line of sight. Ninety degrees track angle. 
Everything in the garden is lovely. If only those 
torpedoes behave properly, the God of Battles has 
delivered Fritz into our hands. 

A second of terrible doubt, whilst like a flash a hun- 
dred possibilities of what the second Dickey (first 
lieutenant) may or may not have omitted to do to the 
torpedoes, illuminates the captain's mind. 

Too late to inquire now. 

204 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" Stand by. FIRE ! " 

There is a dull cough, a slight shake, and the tor- 
pedoes leave their tubes. The captain, riveted to the 
periscope, watches the tracks (if he is very strong- 
minded he lowers the periscope as soon as he has fired). 

There is a splash in the sea ! 

" O Lor ! one of the fish has broken surface, d 

the torpedo staff, d the Vernon, d the first 

lieutenant, d everything," mutters the captain. 

But the Hun proceeds on his course ; he has seen 
nothing. A paean of thanksgiving swells in the cap- 
tain's heart. A minute has passed. Any moment 

The Hun swings round. He has seen the track too 
late to save himself. 

The captain sees a flash, a mass of smoke, and when 
it clears nothing. The crew hear and feel a dull de- 
tonation. Surface ! 

Up comes the British boat and cruises over the grave 
of her victim. It is important to get proof if possible. 
They are such sceptical blokes at the anti-submarine 
division. A live Hun is a good souvenir, a dead one a 
better, but failing these a bit of a Hun, or some uniform 
or wood from a submarine, or, at the worst, a bucket 
of German fuel there will always be lots of that. 

Then there comes the return to the depot, the cheer- 
ing reception, the congratulations of the captain (S) 
and the mess, the celebration in the mess, and finally, 
a month or so later 

London Gazette. To be a Companion of the Dis- 
tinguished Service Order, Lieutenant John 
Smith, R.N., for service in action against 

That is one side of the picture. Of the other and 
more frequent side, when no flash rewards the waiting 


eye, let us not think it's so depressing. The mar- 
vellous thing is that any submarine ever hits another 
one, when the inevitable inaccuracies of the torpedo 
as a weapon, and the extraordinary difficulties under 
which an attack has to be made, are considered. 

I must repeat, I have never attacked a Fritz myself, 
though I was in a boat once when we started to attack 
one. But people who have had dealings with Fritz 
have kindly read the above account, and tell me that 
they can recognize what it is supposed to be about 
and that, from a mess-mate, is high praise indeed ! 

Any survey, however brief, of the work of our sub- 
marines in this war in the North Sea would be incom- 
plete without a few words concerning the " egg-layers," 
or mine-laying submarines. 

The Germans used this type of craft on an extensive 
scale, and the small " U.C." type of mine-layers, which 
operated from the Flanders ports, was known in the 
German Service as the suicide club, as their losses were 

We also used submarine mine-layers, working from 
Harwich, and many dangerous trips, not always with- 
out loss, were undertaken by these craft. 

I think the best one I know of was done by one of 
the mine-layers soon after I reached Harwich. The 
boat in question found a buoyed channel leading up to 
Heligoland, trusted to her luck and followed the line of 
buoys, eventually laying a minefield practically in the 
anti-submarine gate of the boom near the island. One 
of the most astounding features of the trip was that the 
boat was on the surface whilst the mines were being 
laid, and barely 200 yards away a German patrol boat 
drifted about with her crew, singing songs on the fore- 

The captain of that boat now wears a D.S.O. 

Life in a submarine depot is quite different to that 

206 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

in any other kind of depot, as the officers and crews of 
the submarines do not live in their boats when in har- 
bour, but they have quarters in the depot ship. 

Consequently the depot ship is like a floating club, 
and the submarines lie in serried rows alongside her. 
As life in a submarine on a ten-days' patrol, in even the 
finest weather, is not exactly a picnic, whilst in bad 
weather it approaches the indescribable, everything 
possible is done to refresh and rest the submarine crews 
whilst they are in harbour between trips. 

Every branch of the Service produces its own special 
type, and the Submarine Service is no exception to this 
rule. The submarine officer's job is more a one-man 
show than any other job in the Service, and in this fact 
lies its attraction ; and this explains why there are 
always quantities of volunteers from the best type of 

The submarine officer holds in the hollow of his hand 
the lives of his crew and the safety of his boat ; so, 
might it be argued, does the company officer, or the 
lieutenant in command of a destroyer. In a sense, this 
is true ; but at least in the latter cases the men see 
where they are being led to. 

In submarines they do not. Only about three of 
the crew can see the gauges which tell them whether 
they are at 3 feet or 300 feet below the surface. They 
may not even know if they are being hunted, or whether 
they are the hunter. 

Suppose a submarine is cruising along on patrol, and 
a flight of German seaplanes swoop down along the 
glare of the sun's rays, as has often happened to our 
boats, down she goes in a crash dive. If they are near 
the German coast probably the seaplanes will soon have 
destroyers on the scene. Bombs begin to fall. What 
is to be done next ? 

Keep the boat where she is, in the hope that they 
will think she will move away ? Or move away in the 


hopes that they will think she has stayed where she is ? 
Fascinating psychological problem, but, meanwhile 
more bombs fall sudden thought, is the depth insuffi- 
cient ? Do they see a long, cigar-shaped shadow under 
the sea ? No ! hardly possible in 150 feet. But 
perhaps a tank is leaking ! Is there a trail of oil 
meandering to the surface ? 


They seem to have gone. Is it safe to come up and 
have a peep, or are they sitting on the water waiting 
for the boat to do this very thing ? Better give them 
another half an hour. 

The first lieutenant is told to start the gramophone 
the sailors start eating. 

What is this faint drumming noise that gets louder 
and louder until it roars overhead like an express train ? 
Destroyers' propellers without a doubt. All is silence 
again. The strains of " Daddy, don't go down the 
Mine To-night " die away (why do the sailors always 
choose such inappropriate tunes ?). It would be 
dangerous to move now ; probably the destroyers are 
lying with their engines stopped, listening on their 
hydrophones for the sound of the submarine's pro- 

The boat stays where she is. 

Ominous faint scratching sound heard aft, gets louder 
and becomes a rasping sound which passes overhead 
and dies away for'ard. 

Every one breathes again. The jumping wire which 
stretches from the bow to the stern over the conning- 
tower has successfully deflected the wire or chair 
sweep which the Germans are dragging along the 

Question is : Do the Huns know roughly where the 
boat is, or don't they ? 


The boat shakes, and a few lights go out. This looks 

208 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

bad ; depth charging so close as that would seem to 
show they do know where the boat is. 


Good ! farther away. 


Excellent ! still farther away. That first one must 
have been a lucky fluke. 


Hullo ! they seem to have got the idea there's 
something over there what's the rough bearing ? 

Then this is her chance, and slowly the boat creeps 
away to the southward, to rise at nightfall and charge 
her electric batteries, and raise the slender mast from 
which runs the delicate aerial with which she speaks 
nightly to distant England. And some one at a roll- 
top desk a few minutes later receives a flimsy signal 
sheet on which is laconically recorded that 

" In Lat. X.y. Long. P.q. bombed by seaplanes, and 
subsequently attacked unsuccessfully by surface 
craft, considered to be destroyers." 

On the bridge of the submarine R says to C , 

" Pity Stevie wasn't doing a joy-ride with us ; he'd 
have made a regular Daily Mail yarn out of that 
muckodah ! " 

To revert to submarine officers. To them responsi- 
bility is the breath of life. Once clear of the harbour 
and on their billet it's each for himself and a torpedo 
take the hindmost. 

A submarine officer in the British Service, which 
differs in this respect from the U.-boat service, is also 
au fait with all the technical details of his boat. He 
thus has to be a bit of an oil-engine engineer, an 
electrical engineer, and an hydraulic engineer, besides 
being a navigator and a leader of men ; though it is 
true the last quality is inborn and can hardly be made. 
And yet with all these accomplishments the average 


submarine officer is rather distrustful of novelties, 
especially if they are of the nature of scientific instru- 

I think this trait is due to the fact that submarines 
are such a mass of mechanism in a small space that 
even as an overloaded stomach will rebel against the 
choicest foods, so do submarine officers look with in- 
stinctive mistrust on any proposals to put more gear 
into the boats " Save me from my scientific friends," 
is rather their cry. 

When in harbour the submarine officer very sensibly, 
like everyone else, has as good a time as he possibly 
can. But the contrast between sea and harbour is so 
great for a submarine officer that I think he enjoys the 
delights of harbour, or perhaps I should say he appre- 
ciates them, more than his brother in a battleship. 

After all, even in a destroyer you can get a bath at 
sea if you take the trouble to do so. You can also get 
fresh air and sunlight too much of the former some- 

Also, in war-time, with the submarine officer there is 
an underlying feeling of, " Let us eat, drink, and be 

merry, for to-morrow " Such a feeling is inevitable 

in an admittedly dangerous Service. 



ON the 2oth April or thereabouts I found myself on 
the platform of Parkestone Quay surrounded by 
fifteen bits of luggage. Vague recollections of pre- 
vious departures for Germany from Parkestone Quay 
came back to me as I walked on to the quay and saw 
two large steamers moored alongside. 

I was directed to the Maidstone and there found 
that the other ship was an overflow ship known as the 
Pandora, one of her chief claims to fame being a super- 
cocktail, which is known to the Submarine Service as 
" The Pandora." 

It was about 6 p.m., and I inquired for the com- 
mander in order to report my arrival. I was directed 
to " The Badminton Shed," where I found the officer 
in question amongst a lot of ladies playing Badminton 
with more energy than skill. 

My opinion of the Maidstone at once rose to great 
heights, as it was evident that the presence of war did 
not preclude the presence of the gentler influences of 
civilization a state of affairs which I have always 
supported to the utmost. 

A day or two was spent in exploring the depot, and 
I found that there was a third ship farther down the 
jetty, to wit, H.M.S. Forth. 

Amongst other places of interest I discovered a 
billiard-room, a whole series of torpedo, electrical, and 
mining workshops and stores, a theatre, a rabbit warren 
of offices, a chapel, and a pub. The " pub " was the 
Parkestone Quay Hotel. 



Later on, when I had settled down, I bought a horse, 
and I found stables in the establishment. In fact, it 
would be difficult to say what we could not find in 
Parkestone. I could continue for pages describing the 
piggeries, the duckeries, the heneries, the Petty 
Officers' Club, the periscope room, the wet canteen, 
the dry canteen, the barber's shop, etc. etc. 

It was, in fact, a small town in many ways. Over 
all these shore establishments the commander of the 
depot presided as Chief Magistrate under Captain (S). 

The warlike side of the depot consisted of a flotilla 
of " E " and " C " boats, mostly " E " boats with the 
first of the " L " class of boats joining up as they were 
finished. The bulk of the flotilla were " Es " boats 
of pre-war design, but many of them war construction 
excellent boats that have dived beneath all the waters 
from the Murman Coast to the Azores, and from Gib- 
raltar to Constantinople. 

As soon as I had looked round the depot I decided 
that I had better start learning my job ; as a torpedo 
lieutenant's business in a submarine flotilla is quite 
different to what it is anywhere else. My knowledge 
of submarines was contained in the instinctive idea, 
which three years in the Fleet had imbued into me, 
that if one saw a periscope, one rammed it on sight. 

In the course of the first six months at Harwich I 
was able to learn quite a lot about submarines. I found 
that my job was really a species of staff job on the staff 

of the Captain (S ). The torpedo department carried 

out big electrical repairs beyond the capacity of the 
boats and supplied the boats with good torpedoes as 

Every day when the weather permitted, three of the 
boats in harbour went outside Harwich accompanied 
by a destroyer, and dived in what was known as the 
exercising ground, firing their torpedoes at the des- 

212 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

It was frequently my business to go out in the 
destroyer as marking officer. 

Sometimes one submarine submerged, fired at 
another one on the surface. If a torpedo behaved 
badly when fired for exercise we withdrew it from the 
boat and gave them another one. 

I had immediate charge of the torpedo allocation, 
and used to play a game with the first lieutenants of the 
boats. If a torpedo ran badly, they said it was a 
horrible thing given to them in bad condition by my 
minions, whilst I said that the best torpedo in the world 
required a little looking after. 

The game consisted in both sides endeavouring to 
obtain definite proof to bolster up the preliminary 
statements and accusations which were made from both 
sides as soon as the boat came in from exercising. 
When the pile of papers to be dealt with in the office 
became too nauseating, I generally accepted a standing 
invitation which had been extended to me to go out for 
a day's running in the boats. 

On black days, torpedoes sank, and then I had to go 
out and look for them, using an abomination known as 
the single torpedo trawl. The sort of thing that hap- 
pened which gave me a day of this amusement was as 
follows : 

" Come out running with us to-morrow, S ? " 

suggested C . 

" Well, I don't know whether I can manage it," I 
replied. " There is a good deal going on in the depot." 

"Oh, you can manage it," he answered. 

" Well, what's the attraction ? " I inquired. 

" I should have thought that the pleasure of a few 

hours with R and myself would have attracted 

you," he said ; " but since it requires other lures, I tell 
you what, we'll give you some special submarine soup 
for lunch." 

I know that soup of old. 


" I shall be there. What time do you shove off ? " 

" 10.30 a.m. unless the mail is late, when we wait as 
long as we can till we're kicked out." 

Next morning I proceeded outside the harbour in 
H.M. Submarine " E "for the purpose of running her 
torpedoes for exercise. 

On arrival at the exercise ground, we selected a 
spot free from light cruisers, destroyers, and mine- 
sweepers, and dived. Our first movement was " to the 
bottom," but after much pumping and blowing of tanks 
we achieved the feat known as " catching a trim," and 
proceeded to attack the destroyer, which goes out daily 
to be fired at. 

All things being in order, C poked his periscope 

up, and fired a torpedo with what we hoped would prove 
consummate skill. We surfaced, and were somewhat 
upset to see the destroyer approaching us. 

" Your torpedo broke surface and sank. I have 
buoyed the spot," was the depressing signal we 

With our minds full of dark suspicions we consumed 
our submarine soup, as we jogged back to harbour. 

C , as captain of the boat, suspected carelessness 

on the part of the first lieutenant. The first lieutenant 
suspected carelessness on the part of his torpedo 
gunner's mate, who had got the torpedo ready. 

Myself, as torpedo lieutenant, blamed the boat 
collectively. All these were unspoken thoughts. 
Aloud, my hosts insinuated that the torpedo as a 
weapon was a wrong 'un. I, with their beautiful soup 
warming the cockles of my heart, told strange tales of 
torpedoes which had refused to run properly, although 
they had passed every test. I felt I could do no less. 

Next day I embarked on board the trawler John J. 
Boot, to sweep for the missing lamb. We went along- 
side the jetty to embark what is known as the " Single 
Trawl." This consists of two enormous doors, or 

214 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

wooden flaps, each weighing over a ton. The space 
between them is bridged by a jungle of wire, with 
quarter lines, tripping lines, head lines, and the whole 
finished off and rendered delightfully ponderous with a 
massive chain bottom line. 

Skipper M'Pherson, R.N.R., 1 in charge of H.M. ship 
/. Boot greeted me. 

" Ahr ye the officer for the torpedo ? " 

I admitted my identity. 

' Yon terrawl is an unchristian beetch ta work," he 
announced. " Ah've wurked her twice mysel', so I ken 
weel she's a verra beetch of a terrawl," he added. 

We began to get the " terrawl " into the ship by 

M'Pherson directed operations in Scotch, with a 
certain number of Anglo-Saxon adjectives. 

" Ah've wurked the twice," he shouted to the 

mate, who endeavoured to air his views on the best 
methods of slinging the doors, "so ah ken weel, ye 
darned argyfying hound, the precise fashion she lies." 

" Aye, aye, have yer say, M'Pherson, but ye'll find 
I'm richt when we shoot the terrawl," retorted the 
mate, to the huge delight of the eight R.N. sailors I had 
brought with me to assist. 

The engineer added to the gaiety of nations by 
poking his head up the engine-room hatch, and on 
sighting the mass of wire, he exclaimed 

" God sakes, that cat's cradle ! We'll no' be 

hame the nicht," with which he retired again to the 

On arrival at the scene of the disaster, we shot the 
trawl, which, to the amazement of the whole crew, 
behaved quite nicely. 

M'Pherson even went so far as to say she was 
" verra reesainable," and publicly taunted the mate by 
saying, " Eh, M'Tavish, what for is the terrawl no' on 
its side, eh, mon ? Who was richt the noo, eh, mon ? 



haven't I wurked her twice mysel' ? " 

The mate was reduced to muttering dark hints that 
it was " early day ta sing a sang aboot it." 

Laboriously the /. Boot stemmed the tide, dragging 
this monstrosity of steel and wire across the bottom. 
Three times we sighted the trawl. That is to say, the 
upper deck of the trawler was covered with snake-like 
wires, which from moment to moment either sang like 
violin strings, or else writhed in deadly coils. 

The mate at the winch and the skipper on the bridge 
cursed everybody. From the depths of the tiny little 
cabin under the wheel-house, where I was enjoying two 
most perfectly fried soles, I caught snatches of 
dialogues : 

" What for, M'Tavish, you loon, ha' ye no* 

snatached yon wire ? " 

" Na, na, na, na, yer . I didna say yon terripin 

wire, yon wee one ; aye, that's the one." 

" Why the do you no' heave on your winch, 

mate ? " 

" Losh, mon, canna ye see the terrawl is foul abaft 
yer gallows ? " 

" Haul awa, haul awa ! " 

" Can ye see a tarpedo ? " 

Voice from one of my sailors : " Only thing in this 
'ere sanguinary net is a blinkin' crab. 'Ere, come 'ere, 
'Erbert. Ow ! the swab's bit me with 'is claw." 

" All hands haul on yer wires and make her a bittock 
ship-shape syne we shoot the terrawl." 

" Let go yer doors." 

Splash, splash, and amidst parting execrations the 
trawl went to the bottom. 

Gradually the day grew old, and as the sun turned to 
red and traced a track of blood across the calm sea, we 
rocked gently to the wash of fast sweepers, day patrols, 
destroyers, and all the evening traffic of a naval base 
hurrying back to save daylight. Overhead two sea- 

2l6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

planes droned west, weary from a five hours' patrol 
across the other side. 

M'Pherson indicated the scene with the stem of his 

" It's uncommon fine fer the season. There'll be fog 
the morn it's a guid life the sea, when it's arl soft and 
smooth like a bonnie bairn. I mind me on the west 
coast " 

There was a jerk that threw us against the standard 

" The terrawl has catched," briefly announced 

The sailors, who were singing songs round the galley 
fire, rushed out and manned the wires. The winch 
rattled and spat steam from many leaky joints. The 
trawl held, and the /. Boot was drawn bodily over the 
obstruction. The winch ground on, and the huge main 
lifting wires stretched and vibrated with the strain. 
When the ship had heeled to an angle of ten degrees, 
the winch stopped : 

" Will she do nae mair ? " demanded M'Pherson. 

" She's doin' a' that's reasonable and mair," replied 
the mate. 

" Is she open foo' ? " 

" She'll bust her guts, M'Pherson," pleaded the mate. 

" Open yon steam cock to the fu'. Yer a mutinous 
hound, M'Tavish." 

The winch gave a convulsive heave, the trawl lifted 
perhaps a foot, then I think its bottom fell out at the 
same moment as both wires parted and, narrowly 
missing several heads, flicked viciously over the side. 

M'Pherson looked long at the disturbance in the 
water, then turning to the engine-room voice-pipe 
intoned : 

" Hame, Jock ; push her arl ye dare." 

" I kenned weel that damned impetious fule M'Pher- 
son would try her tu hard," said the mate to my petty 


officer, who was rather scandalized to hear the first 
lieutenant of a ship criticizing his captain so openly. 

As the /. Boot shuddered through the water in her 
efforts to make 7 knots, M'Pherson said to me : 

" Lef tenant, I ha' read in a buik that it was said 
concairning that singular unfoortoonate monarch, 
Charley the First, that in arl his unhappy and meeser- 
able exeestence, nothing so became the cheel as the 
manner in which he left it. Ah'm of the opeenion 
mysel' yon terrawl is very similar." 

But as was subsequently discovered, the terrawl had 
died game, trying to lift a small steamer. 

Besides the torpedo work and electrical and wireless 
matters, it was our duty in the torpedo department to 
prepare the mines and load them into the submarine 
mine-layers. The mines were given a thorough test 
before they went to the loading jetty in railway trucks, 
where a crane lifted each mine and lowered it head 
downwards into the empty tubes each side of the 

The mine-layers were not out for more than three 
days, as a rule, as their procedure was to go straight 
over to the other side, insinuate themselves amongst 
the minefields, lie on the bottom until a suitable 
moment arrived, having regard to the tide, then rise, 
lay the " eggs " and return as fast as possible. 

I found all the work very interesting and the days 
slipped by very quickly. 

I soon felt I wanted to go on a trip in a submarine 

and see what it was like, and it happened that B 

in 31 had given me a standing invitation to go with 
him whenever I cared, just before an order came for him 
to do a short three-day patrol at a place called Xi on 
the chart, which was a favourite haunt of U.-boats. 
I obtained permission from the captain and went out 
with 31 as a working guest. 

2l8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Whilst out in the boat I scribbled some notes as to 
what went on, as has often been my amusement when 
enjoying new experiences. I propose quoting these 
notes, in the original, as illustrating the daily life and 
ordinary routine in a submarine at sea. 


"June i, 1918, 8 a.m. Having victualled the ship 
the day previous with all things necessary, including 
white bread and fresh butter, which submariners alone 
are entitled to these hard times, and also two tins 
(large) of pineapple as my small share, we sailed in fine 
weather from Parkestone Quay ; being on board 

Lieutenant R. B in command, Lieutenant M. 

B , hereinafter known as Maurice, as second hand, 

Lieutenant G , R.N.R., in lieu of the proper navi- 
gator, he being stricken down by Spanish flu the night 
before, myself, some twenty-five sailors, also ten 

" I created a small impression in the boat by saying 
that I knew I was going to bring the boat luck, and 

that we would see something. R. B sceptical, and 

says he never sees anything on patrol. 

" This part, though not without humour, is unfortun- 
ately unprintable it concerns what Alphonse Daudet 
calls La petite chambre au bout du corridor, which in a 
submarine is a very remarkable place. 

" An E-boat is divided into the fore-end, which 
contains two tubes and four torpedoes ; from this com- 
partment three steps lead down to the ward-room and 

" On the port side of the boat are the electric switch- 
boards, and on the starboard side are two bunks, a few 


drawers, and a table which slides out from under a 
cupboard, and this starboard side of the boat, screened 
off by a curtain, is the ward-room. 

" At the after end of this part of the boat, about half- 
way between the stem and the stern, is a place called the 
" control-room." Here are the periscopes, hydroplane 
motors, etc., and the vertical ladder which leads up 
through a hatch to the conning-tower : from which a 
further ladder leads through another hatch to the 
top of the conning-tower, which is the fore-bridge. 
These two hatches are known as the ' upper and 
lower lids.' 

" Proceeding aft down the centre of the boat, one 
scrambles over two beam torpedo tubes, and leaving an 
extraordinary little cubby hole on the right (the wire- 
less cabinet) one enters a narrow passage between the 
two Diesel engines. This leads to the after-end, which 
contains the motors and the stern tube. 

" Outside the boat are ' saddle tanks ' known as the 
externals ; these give her buoyancy, and when the boat 
is on the surface they are empty. 

" Inside the pressure hull are various ' internal tanks' 
used for trimming the boat in a longitudinal direction 
and. for compensating for the loss in weight due to 
fuel, lubricating oil, fresh water, etc. 

" The electric batteries extend under the centre com- 
partments before the engine-room. 

" The methods used for shifting water from tank to 
tank, or passing it overboard, are either by using a 
pump, or else by compressed air. 

" So much for the general arrangement of the 

" We are now (9 a.m.) proceeding in a north-easterly 
direction to a spot about 40 miles east of Orfordness. 

" 3-3 P- m - Arrived at our patrol billet and found 
extraordinarily high visibility buoys showing up 10 to 
12 miles. Dived to attack one, being under a mis- 

22O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

apprehension. As soon as we had dived, examination 
of the chart revealed its ' buoyishness.' 

" At this juncture Colonel Sperry l went wrong and 
tried to ' chuck his hand in.' Maurice and I played with 
the old gentleman and got him more or less right one 
of the hunting contacts had jammed over. 

" Lunch at 12.30 consisted of a huge pie, a super- 
excellent milk pudding, and pineapple chunks. 

" At i p.m. we surfaced to communicate by wireless, 
but we failed to get through. 

" Dived at 1.15 p.m. and resumed periscope lookout. 

" The procedure at the periscope is that one of us 
takes his station at that instrument and very slowly 
walks round in a circle, turning the periscope as he goes, 
using one eye with the periscope in high power. Then 
the operator puts the periscope to 30 degrees elevation 
up, and sweeps rapidly round the sky for aeroplanes 
this is called skyscraping then he puts the periscope 
to horizontal and goes slowly round the sea, using the 
other eye at the periscope. We each do this for two 
hours, and it is a considerable strain on the eyes. 

" After lunch, G went to the periscope, and 

Maurice, B , and I slept. 

" At 3.50 surfaced for wireless. The sea was wonder- 
fully calm, and the day brilliantly fine. To the south- 
eastward, the guns in France were rumbling very clearly. 
We lengthened the spark right out and succeeded in 
establishing communication. 

" At 4 p.m. dived ordered tea, and renewed peri- 
scope lookout. 

" 10.30 p.m. At 6 p.m. I went to the periscope until 

6.50 p.m., when we surfaced for wireless. B and I 

had just got up on the bridge, when he noticed some- 
thing suspicious to the south-west. We dived at once, 
and proceeded at full speed under water to try and cut 
it off. 

1 Colonel Sperry the Sperry gyroscopic compass. 


" At the expiration of twenty minutes, nothing having 
been seen through the periscope, we rose again and saw 
nothing from the bridge. 

B had just given the order to dive again, when a 

Fritz surfaced about 4 miles south-west of us, off the 
entrance to Xi channel. Simultaneously, to our 
intense annoyance, destroyers and sweepers appeared 
out of some haze to the north-east of us. The destroyers 
at once rushed towards us, and we hastily shot up recog- 
nition signals and challenged with a lamp. 

" They were the leading ships of a ' beef trip ' coming 
back from Holland, and their arrival was most inoppor- 
tune, as Fritz at once dived. He was evidently 
plunging about, waiting for the convoy. 

" Having established our identity, we closed the con- 
voy, which consisted of sweepers, eleven destroyers, and 
nine merchant ships. We passed a floating mine en 
route. We told the convoy there was a Fritz ahead of 
them, and then we ambled to the north-east on the 
surface, charging our batteries as we went along. 

" The convoy made a beautiful picture, the merchant 
ships steaming steadily along, and the destroyers shoot- 
ing about round them, leaving broad wakes and rolling 
washes across the glassy sea, in which the rays of the 
setting sun were reflected blood-red. 

" Between 9 and 10 we got through a massive dinner. 
As musical entertainment we counted twenty-six depth 
charge concussions to the southward of us, so evidently 
Fritz is being well hotted up by the destroyers ; 
evidently they located him or else he attacked the 

" Never in my life have I eaten such enormous quan- 
tities of food, or felt so fit at sea submarining in this 
weather for a day or two is all right. 

" I have arranged to help with the watch-keeping 
from midnight until we dive, so I think I'll snatch an 
hour's sleep. We intend dodging about between the 

222 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

north and south minefields during the night, charging 
batteries on one engine. 

" July 2, 1918, 10.30. Went up at 12.30 a.m. last 
night, or rather this morning, to relieve Maurice, not 
having been able to sleep at all in the lower bunk. 

" It was an absolutely still, calm night, with a sickle 
moon just rising, more suited to love-making than war ! 
The sea was extremely phosphorescent, and the millions 
of small bubbles and sparkling phosphorescence from 
our saddle tanks gave the boat the appearance of a 
diamond-brooch submarine moving in a sea of liquid fire. 
To be practical I wonder if it shows up at a distance. 

" The bridge is very small to keep w r atch on, as one 
can walk only three steps in a fore and aft direction and 
nothing at all sideways. There were three of us on the 

bridge : B , who dozed in a chair, a lookout, and 


" At 3 a.m. it began to dawn, and as we were making 
smoke, we stopped and trimmed down ready for in- 
stant diving, and thus lay waiting and watching, rolling 
to a very gentle swell. 

" At 4 a.m. it was quite daylight, so, having drawn a 
blank, we dived to 70 feet and trimmed the boat for 
the day. 

I then turned in and slept like a log on the camp-bed 
till 8.30, when I got up and relieved G at the peri- 
scope, whilst Maurice had his breakfast. Then I had 
mine, consisting of eggs and bacon (I daren't put down 
the number of eggs). I had previously dreamt about 
this dish, doubtless due to the fact that from 6 a.m. 
onwards, eggs and bacon were being cooked continu- 
ously within a foot of my head. 

" II a.m. Surface for wireless very calm nothing 
in sight. Tried to get through to Felixstowe no luck. 
I cannot make out why, for radiation seems good ; 
probably because we are working on that very con- 
gested wave ' D.' 


' Telegraphist has a temperature of 102 F., which 
does not help. Other cases of flu in the boat ; 
Maurice sickening for it. 

" Heard the guns in France a continuous im- 
pressive rumble. 

" 11.30 a.m. Plunged, and resumed periscope look- 
out. I lay comatose till lunch, which I ate by myself ; 
the others were at the war, a suspicious object having 
been sighted at I p.m. We lost it again, whatever it 
was, though we attacked it. Submerged for about an 

" 4~5 p-m. At the periscope, walking round like a 
squirrel in its cage bit of a lop on the sea. 

" 5-3 P- m - Tea and the Shipwash Lightship in 
sight. As there are mines in this direction, at six 
o'clock we surfaced to ventilate the boat and get away 
to the north-east on the surface. 

" 6.30 p.m. Plunged I slept for an hour. 

" 8 p.m. Heavy dinner ! We are now waiting for 
dark to surface and start charging. 

" 10 p.m. Surfaced. 

" 10.4 p.m. Crash dived. 

" 10.6 p.m. B has just told me that the reason 

for the sudden manner in which he trod on my head as 
I followed him up the conning-tower was that, as he 
put his head out of the top, he saw the conning-tower 
of a Fritz emerge from the sea about 800 yards away. 

" It has been quite an exciting half an hour, as at the 
moment of writing we have come up again and are now 
proceeding on one engine, in the hope that he may 
come up to charge. All tubes are ready, as we might 
run into him at any moment, though it is too dark to 
hope for much. I am about to go up on watch. 

" ii p.m.-i a.m. On watch, altering course 16 
points each hour ; sea force 3 to 4, but a clear night. 

" At i a.m. was relieved by G , upon which I got 

into a sleeping-bag and dozed till 6.30, when I relieved 

224 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

Maurice at the periscope, the boat having dived at 
dawn nothing in sight. 

"At 8 a.m. had breakfast with B , after which 

meal we surfaced at the eastern end of Xi Channel and 
sighted our sweepers right ahead. Proceeded into War 
Channel, and passing down same arrived at Parkestone 
after lunch. 

" B admitted that I had justified my claim to be 

a joss-piece, 1 and says he has reserved me for a trip as 
soon as he gets his new boat." 

The boat (C2i) which relieved us on this job was 
attacked by seaplanes just off the Ship wash. They 
bombed her, and when she was unable to dive attacked 
her with machine-gun fire. 

Her captain, Lieutenant Bell, and several men were 
shot down on the bridge. Bell fought to the last with 
a Lewis gun. 

51 hearing the disturbance also got mixed up in 
the show. 

The Germans claim to have sunk C2i ; this was not 
correct, as she came into Harwich in tow of a destroyer 
that evening. 

Joss-piece = mascot. 



DAY followed day, and each brought its victory as the 
summer drew on and became autumn. Like Walpole, 
one had to read the papers carefully in case one should 
miss a success. 

I flew up to Yarmouth in October, going up in a big 
Curtis boat, and coming back, after a two-days' visit to 
the submarine depot there, in a D.H.g, in which we 
were obliged to make a forced landing of a mildly ex- 
citing nature near Martlesham. We broke our pro- 
peller, which stuck into the ground. I thus achieved 
my desire of going over, upon, and under the sea in 
time of war. 

On the gth of November I went out with J. G 

in his L-boat to do her torpedo trials. They were par- 
tially successful, as one unrehearsed incident took place. 

J. G and myself were smoking together on the 

bridge with the boat stopped, waiting for the first lieu- 
tenant to report that he was ready to fire another 
torpedo. I was looking at the bows of the boat, and 
could hardly believe my eyes when I suddenly saw a 
line of bubbles appear, and shoot away towards our 
attendant destroyer, which was stopped about half a 
mile away. One of the torpedoes had gone out of its 
own accord, and was streaking towards the destroyer ! 
We waved flags, blew our whistles, signalled, and made 
as much commotion as we could, but long before they 
could do anything the torpedo bobbed up just ahead 
of them, with a sort of " who'd have thought it " look 
on its face. 

15 225 

226 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

On our return to harbour, J. G and myself pre- 
pared to go and offer explanations (if any) to Captain 
S concerning the contretemps. We found much ex- 
citement on board, as a signal had just arrived saying 
the Armistice had been signed. Under the circum- 
stances, we found no explanations were wanted. 

I at once saddled my horse, and in fulfilment of an 
ancient vow rode up into the town and ordered a lot of 
plain clothes. 

When I got back to the ship, I found the gloomiest 
crowd of officers I've ever seen. The signal had been 
cancelled ; it was a false alarm. Perhaps the saddest 
soul was the fellow who had put up drinks all round, 
on the strength of having won the war-sweep. 

But the end was at hand ; and on the nth November, 
1918, at the eleventh hour, I wrote : 

" ii a.m. As I write these words it is over. 

" I don't suppose I shall ever quite realize exactly 
what I do feel, and what the fact that it is all over 
really means. 

" The past month has seen events rushing madly 
along the old-age path of history. It has been almost 
impossible to do more than follow with breathless ex- 
citement the successive stages of the collapses of Bul- 
garia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary ; finally, at 5 a.m. 
this morning, just as I awoke with a strange feeling of 
unrest and remained wide-eyed till 7.30, it appears that 
the Armistice was signed. 

" 12.15 p.m. At 11.15 the lower deck was cleared, 
and the whole depot gathered in Number 3 shed, where 
the captain said : 

" ' My lads, I can't make a speech, I'm too excited, 
but I have a signal here to read to you : " Admiralty 
to all ships. Armistice is signed ; hostilities are to be 
suspended forthwith. All anti-submarine measures in 
force till further notice. Submarines on surface not to 
be attacked unless hostile intentions are obvious. 

THE END 227 

Armistice to be announced at 11.00. All general 
methods of demonstrations to be permitted and en- 
couraged, including bands." 

' I now call for three cheers for the King, and one 
more for the Submarine Service.' 

" The whole building shook. 

" The band then played the National Anthem, which 
was sung with a fervour I've never heard equalled 

" The band, escorted by hundreds of sailors and 
officers, then emerged from the shed, and the piano, 
surrounded by as many musicians as possible, was 
placed on a trolley. 

" By virtue of having started a band here, I was 
pushed up on top of the piano, from which position I 
conducted the band, as, surrounded by a surging, cheer- 
ing mob, we played furiously whilst the whole band- 
stand was slowly pulled along the railway lines through 
the depot. 

" I got very excited, which as usual gave rise to a 
misleading impression, as an E.R.A. in the crowd was 
heard to say : 

" ' He's all right, he is, but I shouldn't have liked to 
have paid for all the drinks he's had ! ' 

" As a matter of fact, he would only have had to pay 
for one ginger ale ! 

" Champagne (preserved for this day) is on tap in the 
mess, every ship in the harbour is blowing off her siren, 
and rockets and Very lights are shooting sky-high. 

" A great day. 

" To-night we dine the captain, with the band play- 
ing in the smoking-room. 

" Nov. 12, 1918. We had a great time last night, and 
there are a lot of fat-heads about to-day. 

" The band played d merveille, and after dinner we 

danced and skylarked in the mess. I dressed B up 

as a girl, and myself as a Rear-Admiral . 

228 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

" From 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. every syren in the har- 
bour screamed, every bell was rung, rockets, Very 
lights, flares, and grenades went up in all directions 
beneath the waving beams of many searchlights. 

" Thus ended my second life, which had lasted from 
4th August, 1914 to nth November, 1918. I hope my 
third life will be of a different kind, for in the course of 
my second life I have found someone to share the 
third with me ! 

" This book should really end here, but just as I 
found it suitable to write a chapter on the prelude to 
the war, so it seems suitable to devote a few words to 
the aftermath of the war, which in my case has meant 
the surrender of the U.-boats and the subsequent work 
in connection with them." 



THE 2oth November, 1918, will ever rank as an anniver- 
sary without precedent in the history of sea warfare. 
For upon that date the first instalment of the German 
submarines surrendered to the British Navy in general, 
and to the British Submarine Service in particular. 

The surrender of these first ships of the German Navy 
had a double interest, firstly, in that, preceding as it 
did by twenty-four hours the surrender of the surface 
craft to the Grand Fleet, it was a test case as to the 
willingness of the German Navy to submit to this un- 
precedented humiliation ; and, secondly, there was 
something altogether incredible in the idea that sub- 
marines would arrive at a position on the sea and 
surrender. Most of us felt that a surface ship might 
possibly be expected to surrender ; but we found it 
extraordinarily hard to imagine that very shy bird 
Fritz walking into the cage. 

It was decided that Harwich should be the port of 
surrender, and the honour of receiving these surrenders 
was reserved for the officers and men of the British 
Submarine Service. 

That they have fully earned such an honour is testi- 
fied by the fact that our Submarine Service has the 
melancholy privilege of possessing a higher percentage 
of casualties than any other branch of the three services. 
I have said this once, but I repeat it, lest one forgets. 

In the fullness of time the records will show what was 
gained for the Empire in exchange for the long list of 
boats that never came back. Harwich, or to be ac- 


230 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

curate, Parkeston Quay, had been the home of the 8th 
and gth flotillas since August 1914. It was from here 
that two boats went into the Bight on patrol on 6th 
August, 1914 at 2 a.m., and on the night of the Armistice 
the depot had her boats on the observation billets 
across the other side. The watch had been kept for 
four years and a hundred days. 

In order that all might share the " Fun of the Fair," 
and also in order to obtain the necessary personnel, 
submarine officers and men gathered to the Maidstone 
at Parkeston Quay from all parts of England. The 
messes in the depot ships were packed, and the night 
of the igth was a merry one, for it is questionable if 
there had ever been so many submarine officers gathered 
together in one place before ; and the cause of the 
gathering was enough to make the dumb sing. 

In the evening a train-load of reporters and cinemato- 
graph and camera kings descended on Harwich. The 
commander of the depot strove manfully to put a 
gallon into a pint pot, and we believe that a bed for the 
lady reporter was found on the billiard-table. 

The start was at 7 a.m., at which hour the boarding 
parties under Captain S , the reporters, and camp 
followers, embarked on two destroyers, the Melampus 
and Firedrake. Both these ships had met Fritz before 
during the war, with in each case disastrous results 
to Fritz. 

The Harwich forces of light cruisers and destroyers 
left on the evening of the I9th to meet the Huns and 
escort them to the place of surrender, which was at the 
southern end of the Sledway, or about seven miles east- 
north-east of Felixstowe. The appointed hour was 
10 a.m., and a thick fog hung over the water as the two 
destroyers cautiously felt their way down harbour ; but 
once through the boom defences it cleared somewhat, 
and we were at the rendezvous by 9.30 a.m. On the 
way out we passed close to the Cork Lightship ; her 


occupants were in great spirits, and one man from the 
rigging bellowed out : 

" Out you go, you rascals, and bring the s 

in " : an exhortation which was seconded by cheers 
from the lightship's crew. 

The whole time one had to pinch oneself to make 
sure that one was really out there to collect U.-boats 
and that the whole thing was not a dream. Suddenly 
a " British Zepp." droned out of the mist, circled round 
and vanished again to the northward. 

At 9.55 a hull appeared, which resolved itself into the 
Danae, one of the latest light cruisers. Close behind 
her, and looking sadly in need of a coat of paint, came 
a white transport. She was flanked on either side by 
destroyers. This seemed promising, but where were 
the Fritzes ? A gap of half a mile, and then a smaller 
transport ambled out of the fog more British de- 
stroyers a " Blimp " overhead, then a startled voice 
broke the silence with 

" By Jove : there's a ruddy Fritz." 

There was a rush to the port side of the Firedrake, 
which heeled over like a paddle steamer full of tourists 
at a naval review. From the north, a long line of a 
hull with a dome-shaped conning-tower in the centre 
slid across the water. No boat built in a British yard 
ever looked like that the Huns had come. She was 
followed by five others in straggling order. One was a 
large new vessel (U.I35) elaborately camouflaged and 
mounting a 6-inch gun forward. 

It is impossible to describe in words the feelings of 
the officers and men who witnessed this amazing sight. 
Try and imagine what you would feel like if you were 
told to go to Piccadilly at 10 a.m. and see twenty man- 
eating tigers walk up from Hyde Park Corner and lie 
down in front of the Ritz to let you cut their tails off 
and put their leads on and it really was so. Add to 
these impressions the fact that many of those present 

232 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

had been hunting Fritz for over four years, in which 
period a man who could boast, " I have seen six Fritzes 
and heard them four times on my hydrophones," was 
accounted favoured by the gods, and you may get an 
insight into what British crews felt. 

More boats drifted out of the fog and anchored under 
the guns of the British destroyers. Motor-launches 
came alongside the Firedrake and Melampus, to take 
our crews over to the Huns. Each party consisted of 
two or three officers and about 15 men. 

Actually I was with the party that boarded U.go, 
and as the proceedings in each case were very similar, 
I shall describe what happened here. 

The four officers composing our party were armed, 
and it may safely be said that we were prepared for any 
eventuality except that which actually took place. 

The Hun submarine service is remarkable in many 
respects. It has a record of criminal brutality standing 
against it unequalled in the history of war. 

It has been expanded from 20 to 30 boats to about 
140 plus 160 or 200 (lost), in the space of four years. 

During this period it has seriously troubled the 
British Empire no mean feat. At the end of this 
period it has submitted to humiliation unparalleled in 
history. A strange record. 

I have said that the British parties were prepared for 
every eventuality save one. We were not prepared to 
find the Huns behaving for once as gentlemen. It is 
right to record that during those wonderful days their 
behaviour has been correct in every respect. It may 
be through fear of the consequences attending any 
peevishness, it may be for some ulterior motive, that 
this has been so. I state the fact. In nearly every 
case the German officer has seemed genuinely anxious 
to assist in every way possible, and give as much in- 
formation concerning the working of the boat as was 
feasible in the time at his disposal. 


One officer voiced the feelings of many when, as we 
discussed the events of the day that evening, he re- 
marked, " My Hun might have been trying to sell me 
the boat, the blighter tried to be so obliging." 

To return to the story. We left the Firedrake in a 
motor-launch and went alongside a fair-sized Hun 
mounting two guns, one each side of the conning-tower. 

K (our senior officer) jumped on board, followed 

by the Engineer Commander, an Engineer Lieutenant- 
Commander, and myself. The two engineer officers 
had come out to try and pick up as much as they could 
about the Hun Diesel engines during the trip in. 

We were received by the German captain together 
with his torpedo officer and engineer. 

They saluted us, which salutes were returned. 

" Do you speak English ? " said K . 

" Yes, a little," replied the Hun. 

" Give me your papers." 

The German then produced a list of his crew and the 
signed terms of surrender, which he translated into 
English. These terms were as follows : 

(1) The boat was to be in an efficient condition, with 

periscopes, main motors, Diesel engines, and 
auxiliary engines in good working order. 

(2) She was to be in surface trim, with all diving 

tanks blown. 

(3) Her torpedoes were to be on board, without their 

war-heads, and the torpedoes were to be clear 
of the tubes. 

(4) Her wireless was to be complete. 

(5) There were to be no explosives on board. 

(6) There were to be no booby traps or infernal 

machines on board. 

This last declaration rather stuck in his throat ; he 
repeated the words " no hell engines " with great con- 
viction. This captain was a well-fed-looking individual 
with quite a pleasant appearance, and he was wearing 

234 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

the Iron Cross of the first class. He had apparently 
sunk much tonnage in another boat, but had done only 
one trip in U.QO. Curiously enough, his old boat was 
next ahead of us going up harbour. 

K then informed him that he would give him 

instructions where to go, but that otherwise the Ger- 
man crew would work the boat under the supervision 
of our people. This surprised the Hun, who showed us 
his orders, which stated that he was to hand the boat 
over to us and then leave at once for the transport. 
His subordinates urged him to protest, but he was too 
sensible and at once agreed to do whatever we ordered. 

The German crew were clustered round the after-gun, 
taking a detached interest in the proceedings. 

Our own men, in submarine rig of white sweaters, 
blue trousers, white stockings, and sea-boots, looked 
very smart, fallen in right aft. The formalities having 
been concluded, we made a rapid tour of the boat and 
then went on to the bridge. 

Various things about the boat were defective, the 
German explaining that he had only just returned from 
a thirty-five-day trip and was about to refit when 
ordered to bring her over. He also stated that the 
mutineers at Kiel had descended into the boat and 
looted a good deal of gear. Many of the captains spoke 
with much bitterness of this looting by the big ship 
crews, which seems to have been pretty general. 

Getting under way on the Diesels, we proceeded 
towards Harwich, the white ensign being run up as the 
anchor left the ground. 

A tragi-comic incident took place at this stage, for 
as the white ensign and final sign of surrender was dis- 
played to the world, the torpedo and engineer officers 
shifted into plain clothes of a peculiarly German type. 
Each donned a long blue overcoat and a green felt hat ; 
it needed only the feathers in the latter to complete the 
picture of the two German tourists visiting Harwich for 


the first time. At first I thought this change of garb 
indicated that a touch of Prussianism was imminent 
and that they were going to be surly, but they still 
appeared to consider themselves as officers of the boat, 
moving about directing operations amongst the crew 
when any work had to be done. 

We proceeded into Harwich and up to the head of 
the harbour, past Parkeston Quay, to what the re- 
porters now say we call " U.-boat Avenue." The ships 
in harbour were crowded with spectators, but a com- 
plete silence was preserved which was more impressive 
than cheers. On arrival at our buoy the German 
manoeuvred his late command very skilfully on the oil 
engines, which in German boats are made reversible, 
whereas in British boats the electric motors are in- 
variably used for manoeuvring purposes. 

As soon as we had secured to the buoy, an operation 
which in every case the Germans had to do for them- 
selves, the German was instructed to take us round the 
boat in a more detailed manner. This he did ; and 
auxiliary machinery was started, periscopes raised and 
lowered, etc. etc. 

At 4 p.m. a motor-launch came alongside and the 
Germans were ordered to gather up their personal be- 
longings and get into her. The captain, without a sign 
of that emotion which he must have felt, took a last 
look at his boat and saluted. We returned his salute, 
he bowed, and then joined his crew in the motor-launch, 
which took them to the destroyer in which they made 
passage to the transport outside. 

Similar scenes were being enacted at the other buoys, 
and as the sun sank in a splendour of crimson and gold, 
the long line of the first twenty U.-boats, harmlessly 
swinging round their buoys and reflecting the last rays 
of the sun from their conning-towers, made a picture 

236 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

which will remain for ever in the minds of those who 
were fortunate enough to witness the scene. 

Next day, nineteen more boats were added to the line. 
One sank or was scuttled on the way over. The super- 
crock of the German Submarine Service came over on 
this day, U.24. She was their instructional sub- 
marine ; her crew were very sea-sick, very unhappy, 
nothing worked, and she struggled exceedingly to get 
6 knots. 

On the third day, twenty-one came over, one more to 
make up for the lost lamb. On this day the weather 
changed from the foggy calmness of the preceding days 
to a day of tumbling seas, which made boarding outside 
a dangerous operation. 

Whilst waiting for the Huns we had the misfortune to 
lose a man overboard from one of the tenders ; wearing 
sea-boots, he sank after a gallant struggle before he 
could be reached. 

The U.-boats were boarded inside the gate, opposite 
Felixstowe air-station. 

On their way in, one of our destroyers sank a mine, 
which blew up when it was hit, about 80 yards in front of 
the leading submarine . The crews of the next five boats 
bolted up on deck like rabbits on hearing the explosion. 

On this day my party boarded a large U.ioo class, 
fitted as a mine-layer. She carried about thirty-six 
mines in a mining-room aft, and she laid her eggs 
through two tunnels right aft. She was commanded 
by a reserve officer, who had sailed a great deal from 
Southampton before the war. 

We had rather a long wait before they were taken off, 
and in the course of the somewhat lengthy conversa- 
tion, which is unavoidable when one is trying to find 
out in an hour how to work a strange submarine, the 
captain of this boat stated that he had been Wagen- 
fuhrer's first lieutenant, and that he had left the boat 
two trips before she was lost. 


This reserve officer stated that some eight months 
after the sinking of the Lusitania, he and Wagenfiihrer 
had been within 400 yards of the Mauretania with all 
tubes ready and trained on her, but owing to the critical 
state of the political situation between the United 
States and Germany, they had not fired. On their 
return to Germany they had received an autographed 
letter from the Kaiser commending them for their dis- 

He also stated that all the reservist officers in the 
German Navy had stated at the beginning of submarine 
warfare that it was ridiculous to imagine that England 
could be starved out in six months, or that her mer- 
chant seamen could be terrorized, as they being reserve 
officers had worked with and knew the British Merchant 
Service. He added, " When you dig your teeth in, you 
hold . In my mess I was called traitor when I say that . ' ' 

Amongst other incidents was a case in which two 
Huns refused to leave their submarine and go back to 
Germany, not for any heroic reason, but because they 
wished to remain in England and receive " work and 
good food." 

The reservist officer whom I have mentioned felt that 
his nationality was going to make things difficult for 
him in the future. He kept on asking whereabouts 
in the world he might be able to get a job in the 
Merchant Service. He finally said : 

" Do you think if I went to China or Japan I could 
find a job for a German ? " He was told it was un- 

As he left the boat he saluted and delivered himself 
of this little speech : 

" For the future all is uncertain, thank God I am not 

On Saturday, 23rd November, there was a respite 
from the pleasant task of collecting the U.-boats, but on 
Sunday the business was very brisk. Twenty-eight 

238 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

boats underwent the great humiliation . Amongst these 
were two or three flying the Imperial ensign. 

In the previous batches, most of them had come over 
without flags, though some of them had red flags on 
board. Whenever a German ensign could be found it 
was hoisted inferior to the white ensign. In one or two 
cases the Huns protested against this, but needless to 
say without any success. 

Whenever one felt any undue sympathy for these 
individuals and the naval officer who has not been 
able to get into personal contact with the Hun is liable 
to feel sorry for men whom we once thought worthy 
members of the fellowship of the sea one only had to 
remember the number of women and children these men 
had murdered, one only had to imagine how we 
should have been treated if we had been obliged to take 
a British ship into Kiel. One's imagination in this 
respect was assisted by the palpable relief of all the 
Huns on finding that they were not going anywhere 
near the shore. One Hun on being told to get his en- 
sign up, summed up the situation with the remark : 
" All right, sir, I put up my flag ; you have the power." 

Amongst the twenty-eight that came across on U.- 
boat Sunday were four Deutschland class of commercial 
submarines, including the name vessel of the class. 
They look somewhat like a floating bridge across a 

A sailor in the Firedrake remarked on seeing them 
for the first time " Here, Bill, here comes the Elephant 
and Castle." 

The captain of my submarine, which was a small 
brand-new mine-layer, indicated one of the floating 
haystacks with his glasses, and when I asked him his 
opinion of them tersely remarked : As submarines, 

This captain was again a reservist officer and spoke 
fluent English. He appeared to know the entrance to 


Harwich harbour very well. I remarked on this, and 
he volunteered this statement as to his career in the war. 
He said that on the outbreak of war he had joined the 
Dresden, and in her he had fought at Coronel and at the 
Falkland Islands. At the final destruction of the 
Dresden at Robinson Crusoe Island he had been in- 
terned in Chili, from whence he had escaped to England, 
presumably with a forged passport. 

He then startled me by saying, with a smile, that he 
had lived for four weeks in England, " visiting my 
relatives, and moving openly," and that finally, with- 
out " great difficulty," he had got over to Germany and 
joined the submarine service. From certain other 
evidence, I am inclined to think he was speaking the 

Another captain who came over in this batch stated 
that he had landed twice in the early days of the war on 
islands in the Orkneys and made off with a sheep. 
Perhaps this piece of news will clear up some long- 
standing mystery in the Northern Isles. 

One of the boats which comprised the twenty-eight 
was 11.139 a big cruiser with two 5-9 guns, one each 
side of the conning-tower; she also carried a range finder. 

This boat belonged to von Arnauld de la Periere, 
the most successful and famous of all U.-boat captains. 
A. de la Periere was in command of the German 
fishery gunboat on the east coast of England before 
the war, and was well known to many British naval 
officers. His fame in the German Navy is almost 

I believe nothing is known to his discredit, that is to 
say, nothing exceptionally beastly, and he is known to 
have saved life on certain occasions, and he has a 
reputation of being a gentleman. He first made his 
name in a U.-boat (35, I think, was its number) in the 
Mediterranean. He worked on original lines, making 
little use of his torpedoes, but specializing with his guns, 

240 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

for which he had picked gun-layers from the High Seas 

When the U.I39 arrived here on Sunday, she had a 
periscope missing and part of her bridge smashed in ; 
this damage was the result of an encounter with a 
steamer which she had torpedoed, but the steamer in her 
dying struggles had managed partly to sit on the 

The first lieutenant and four officers brought her 
over ; he said that von Arnauld de la Periere was too 
sad to come. All the officers and crew of this boat were 
evidently very proud of having served with their cap- 
tain, and the discipline and esprit de corps were notice- 
ably good. The interior of the boat was very nicely 
finished as far as the officers' quarters were concerned, 
and evidently von Arnauld had plenty of " pull " in the 
German dockyard. 

From one of the Deutschland class, two American 
naval officers emerged. They had been through a 
remarkable experience. 

On 30 th September they were torpedoed in the 
Ticonderoga at a spot about half-way across the 
Atlantic. They had got away on a raft, and, being 
officers, the Huns had picked them up. They had 
spent some 40 days in the submarine, during which 
period they had experienced the unpleasant sensation 
of being depth-charged by some British patrols. 
They had also seen the crew of a Norwegian sailing- 
ship turned adrift in their boats 1,300 miles from land. 
Consider what this means in the Atlantic in October. 

When these officers got back to Kiel the Armistice 
was just being prepared, and eventually they were told 
that they could go back to England in a submarine if 
they wished to. They jumped at the chance, and were 
told to go in the same boat that had picked them up. 
The crew of this boat then sat down and held a meeting 
as to whether they should give them a passage or not. 


On a vote being taken, it was seen that the majority 
was for taking them, so they came across. The 
opinion of these Americans was that if a man can stand 
45 days in a German submarine under war conditions 
he can stand anything ; and, looking over the boats, I 
am inclined to think they are right. 

On Wednesday the 27th a batch of twenty-seven 
boats came over. 

Two notorious boats were amongst them. One was 
the U.Q. This boat sank the Hogue, Aboukir, and 
Cressy, her commander being Otto Weddigen ; she is 
also thought to have sunk the Hermes. Otto Weddigen 
was rammed and sunk by the Dreadnought when he 
attacked the Grand Fleet in 11.29. 

The other boat has a criminal record. This boat's 
number is U-55 ; she is suspected of having special- 
ized in hospital ships. As to her commander's name, 
more may be heard of him anon. 

The U-9 had a large Iron Cross painted on her 
bows, as the boat was decorated with this honour after 
her exploits. 

Another boat has an evil-looking eye on her bow, and 
another has a prawn on her conning-tower. These 
marks are quite in accordance with the best practice of 
Chinese pirates, whose junks are decorated in this 

As regards the officers who have come over with the 
submarines, they have seemed to be of three types. 
Few of the proper captains of the big boats have come 
across, and when these have turned up they have 
appeared to feel their position keenly, and have shifted 
into plain clothes as soon as possible. One did this 
with the remark that they had all sworn an oath never 
again to wear a uniform which had been disgraced by 
the mutiny in the High Seas Fleet. 

When the senior captains did not come across, their 
boats were usually brought over by their first lieuten- 

242 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

ants, mere boys, in some cases rather nervous boys ; 
they were reported generally as being " willing to feed 
out of one's hand." 

The other class of officer was usually found in the 
smaller boats. These vessels were commanded by 
" reserve " officers, elderly men who had been in the 
German merchant service in pre-war days. These 
officers did not appear to feel the humiliation as keenly 
as the regular officers, and their chief anxiety seemed to 
be to try and be friendly and find out whereabouts in 
the world they would be able to get a job when the war 
is over. 

One of these officers said that the feeling over this 
war would last twenty-five years. He was told that 
the reason for this was the beastly manner in which the 
Germans had fought the war. 

He said that he did not believe in all the reports of 

He was then asked why it was that all the world 
hated the Germans ? He looked away for a moment, 
and then said, " If I ask myself that question once, I 
ask it a hundred times a day." 

A delightful sidelight on the absolute inability of the 
Hun to appreciate psychology. 

As to the crews, they seemed very sharply divided 
into revolutionaries and royalists. 

In some boats nothing could be noticed that would 
lead one to suppose that discipline was not perfect. 

In other boats, discipline was good, but the captains 
had been elected by the crews and held commissions 
signed by the Sailors' and Soldiers' Committee. 

Again, in other boats the crews paid little attention 
to the orders of their officers, except when it was obvious 
that the order would be backed up by the British 

In one case, as an officer was scrambling up the side 
of the transport, his crew in the destroyer shouted to 


some Germans in the transport and, pointing to their 
officer, drew their fingers across their throats and made 
threatening remarks about him. 

In about three cases the crews showed a certain 
amount of morale by giving three cheers for their boats 
as they were taken away. One boat's crew hung a 
wreath of evergreens on their boat before they left her. 

In our destroyers they tried hard to get some soap, 
of which there seems to be a great shortage in the 

A few remarks as to the boats may be of interest. 

The biggest are the U.I39 class. These are the 
cruiser submarines. They are nearly 300 feet long, and 
carry two big guns of 5 '9-inch size. 

The accommodation for the officers is good, and 
resembles three cabins and a saloon in a sleeping-car. 
The accommodation for the crew, who number about 
seventy, is not good. 

These craft represent the latest development in 
ocean-going, commerce-destroying submarines, and 
rely chiefly on their guns, though they carry torpedoes 
as well. Not many of these formidable craft had been 
completed when the German Navy collapsed. 

We next have four Deutschland class ; originally 
designed as commercial vessels to carry about 1,000 tons 
of cargo, their raison d'etre disappeared with the entry 
of the United States into the war. These craft were 
then converted into cruisers, and armed with three 
torpedo tubes, two 5-9 guns, and mines. These last 
were laid by the primitive method of rolling them over 
the side. 

As they are compromises, they have many dis- 
advantages ; they are slow on the surface, having 
apparently two speeds, i.e. full speed and stop. Full 
speed is about 9 knots. They were chiefly used for 
long-distance work off the coasts of North and South 
America, as they were quite capable of a three months' 

244 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

cruise. This may have been very trying for the crew, 
though it must be remembered that when operating in 
the tropics and on the ocean trade routes she would 
drift about on the surface waiting for shipping, and her 
crew, as shown by the wooden seats on the upper deck, 
would laze away the time in the fresh air. 

The next class is the U.J-3O class. Most of these are 
mine-layers intended to lay mines overseas, as, for 
example, off Gibraltar, and then prey on the trade in 
these localities. 

Slightly smaller than these, but still large boats, are 
the U.o/) class. This is the standard ocean-going 
submarine which worked off the Spanish coast, up the 
west coast of Ireland, and in the Irish Sea. The length 
of their trips used to be about three to six weeks. 
Their armament consists of two 4-inch guns and six 
torpedo tubes, four forward and two in the stern. A 
large number of this type of craft are in the cage, 
but probably a larger number are at the bottom of 
the sea. 

We have also a considerable number of U.B. boats 
in store ; these, though a separate type, are practically 
a smaller edition of the standard U. They battened on 
trade up the east coast of England and in the English 
Channel, after they had negotiated the Dover barrage, 
which towards the end of the war was becoming a very 
unpopular institution in the German Submarine 

The next class are the U.C. boats, of which a singu- 
larly complete collection of the latest editions is on 
view. These boats are small mine-layers, with twelve 
to sixteen mines held in vertical tubes which fill in the 
forepart of the boat. They have also got a small gun 
and three torpedo tubes, one aft, and two outside the 
boat on the side of the upper deck. Their work was to 
attack traffic in the North Sea and lay mines off the 
English ports. 


The collection is completed by a miscellaneous crowd 
of antique pre-war U. -boats and similar veterans. 

As far as is known at the moment of writing, the 
bulk of the U.-boat navy is now in the fold, though 
there remain perhaps twenty odd craft scattered about 
in neutral ports, including some over in the German 
harbours which are not capable of coming over. It 
thus appears that we must have sunk rather more than 
we thought, or, to be correct, than we officially claimed, 
as the Navy was always convinced that the casualty 
list stood at a higher figure than the number of proved 

Speaking generally, the outstanding feature of all the 
boats is their filthy condition. How much of this is 
normal and how much is due to present conditions in 
the German Fleet, it is difficult to say. I personally 
find it quite hard to go round some of the boats without 
being almost physically sick. The condition of these 
boats after a six weeks' trip, with washing water at a 
premium, must have been very horrid. 

As regards technical fittings, the periscopes, as was 
expected, are excellent. The Hun has always been a 
cunning man at making optical instruments. The 
Diesel engines are also expected to prove very good. 
In other respects there is much of purely technical 
interest for our people to study. 

It is obvious from many points of view that the 
German Submarine Service was organized on different 
lines from our own. 

For example, in a U.-boat the captain is there to 
command the boat from the disciplinary point of view 
and to make the attack ; his technical knowledge may 
be very poor. He merely said, " Dive the boat," and 
if anything went wrong it is probable that he could not 
correct the mistake. All the electrical machinery and 
the trimming of the boat was done by the engineer 
officer of the boat. 

246 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

A lot of their gear is also inaccessible, which in a 
British boat would have to be accessible, because the 
crew would be expected to repair it themselves if it 
went wrong. 

The German idea is apparently based on the principle 
that gear is placed in a boat and expected to remain 
efficient for a certain definite time, at the end of which 
period it is removed by the dockyard and fresh stuff 
put in. 

One of the most curious impressions that one gets on 
going round a boat is due to the manner in which the 
crews walked out of them leaving bedding, books, 
letters, knives, spoons, forks, china, provisions, and a 
mass of small personal gear, all horribly dirty. We had 
expected to find the boats more or less stripped of their 
upholstery, and that each boat would be simply a hull 
with machinery in it. As it is the boats look as if some 
sudden panic had stricken their crews and they had 
vanished from the boat at five minutes' notice. 

For the moment these 114 boats l lie on the surface 
of an English river, a monument to the British Navy 
and a warning to any who would challenge our sea- 
power. The river Stour has carried sea-raiders in the 
past, when the Danes and the Angles and the Saxons 
from the Jutland coast and the mouths of the German 
rivers, came across and sailed up the estuaries of 
England, pillaging, burning, sacking, and destroying 
" all that had breath." 

After an interval of one thousand years this sluggish 
old river once more has between her banks, ships from 
the Elbe estuary and the bordering coasts, which in the 
last four years have laid a trail of blood across the seas. 

In a short time the representatives of our Allies will 
come here and take away some of the boats ; the others 
will proceed round the ports of Great Britain, that our 
people, and especially our Merchant Service, to whom 

1 Since increased (3-3-19). 


all honour is due, may survey the result of the German 
Empire's bold bid for the supremacy of the Seven 

As to their ultimate disposal, nothing is settled 
beyond one thing, and that is, that they will not return 
whence they came. 

In concluding these brief and somewhat disconnected 
impressions of this great event, I would like to quote 

a telegram which has been sent to Captain S of 

this depot : 

" I wish to convey to you, and to all ranks and 
ratings under your command, my most sincere con- 
gratulations on the splendid result which has been 
achieved by their constant watchfulness, skill, and 
bravery, and on the exemplary standard which they 
have set in the legitimate use of submarine warfare. 

It is the last line of the above message that pleases 
the British Submarine Service most of all. 

Postscript. Eight more boats came in a few days 
later, including a boat with one engine, and U-3, an 
ancient petrol-driven craft. 



" IF this is Peace give me War ! " Strange as this 
may sound, I have heard quite a number of officers 
make the remark as they enter the mess and occupy 
a position in front of the ward-room stove hallowed 
spot from which either to voice a grievance or burn 
the seat of one's trousers. It is the U. -boats that are 
the root of all troubles at present. When they go it 
will be something else, for a " grouse " is essential ; 
but for the moment the U.-boats form an obvious peg 
on which to hang all our moans. 

When the great surrender was completed and we 
got our breath back, we had miles of U.-boats lying up 
the river which had to be looked after, for thirty-six 
were to go round the British Isles, and the Americans 
were to take some and the French were to have others, 
and the Italians and the Japanese were each to have 
samples, so the boats had to be kept in order. 

Now a submarine is like a baby, in that it cannot 
be left to look after itself. 

The battery has to be kept charged, and the boat has 
to be kept free of water which leaks into her. Last, 
but not least, a couple of army corps of souvenir 
hunters had to be kept off the grass. Very ingenious 
gentlemen let us not inquire as to whether the major- 
ity were in uniform or not who floated round the 
U.-boat trot in every kind of craft from a paddle- 
steamer to a duck punt. All the work that these 

1 January, 1919. 


various jobs entailed has been done by the submarine 
officers here, and it has kept us quite busy. 

A lugubrious signal comes down from the submarine 
officer who is acting as Commodore Manningtree 
(Senior Naval Officer in charge of U.-boats). 

The signal runs : 

" U.C.gS is sinking fast, U.ioi has taken a big 
angle, please send assistance." 

Lieutenant Georgie G , who has calculated on an 

evening off, finds himself booming up the river in his 
own E-boat, in order to perform the menial task of 
pumping out U.C. 98. 

On arrival there he endeavours to do it with the 
U.C. boat's pump, but being an indifferent German 
scholar he spends half an hour searching for the requisite 
switch. Having found it at last, he switches on cur- 
rent, and the pump motor goes up in a sheet of flame 
it is not in repair. 

Laboriously he performs the job with his own 

Whilst wandering round the U.C. boat he hears a 
ticking noise in the wireless cabinet. Is it possible ? 
Can the Huns have left a clock behind ? Stranger 
still, can the fellow who brought her in have omitted 
to take it away for safe custody ? 

Georgie starts a minute search, half an hour passes, 

still that ticking noise. Awful thought ! D ! it is 

his own Ingersoll ! 

There was one day during which I was working in 
the U.-boats, when an incident occurred which hardly 
comes under the heading of this chapter. I would 
even propose putting it in a separate paragraph en- 
titled the " Joys of Peace." I was in U.I3Q, which was 
being handed over to the French, and I was standing 
at the forward end of the engine-room, not looking my 
best, I fear, unless visible evidence of honest toil on 
clothes and hands is an improvement to the appearance, 

250 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

when I was amazed to see a feminine and delightful 
ankle descend from above into my field of vision. 

Vague parallels to the angels of Mons floated through 
my mind, and I was debating whether to advance and 
grasp this vision before I woke up, when, after waving 
in the air, the foot found the next rung of a vertical 
ladder, and like the unveiling of a statue a charming 
lady arrived on the engine-room floor-plates. 

Inwardly deploring my general appearance, I ad- 
vanced " one " as the gunnery drill book says, and 
made polite conversation. But the hatch was to 
provide further startling surprises, as the next arrival 
turned out to be the First Sea Lord ; the sight of a full 
admiral effectively reminding me of my exact position 
in the Navy List. 

The lady was the Duchess of , who, if I may be 

allowed to say so, astonished and almost (but not 
quite) confounded me with technical inquiries anent 
German Diesel engines. Should these lines ever meet 
her eye, I wish her to know that I subsequently dis- 
covered that my guess as to the horse-power of the port 
engine was correct. 

We soon got to know the boats fairly well, but all the 
people who were taking them away, both our own and 
our Allies, had to have them explained to them as 
much as possible. 

It is difficult to explain to a Japanese officer how 
something works, when you are a little uncertain your- 
self, and his English is limited to " Tank you " and 
" Ah, yes," whilst the nearest to an oriental language 
you know is Maltese. 

However, it is being done. 

And the manner in which it was done is something 
like this : 

Japanese Officer. " How motah work tank you ? " 

Myself. 1 ' Well, you see this . . ." 


/. 0." Tank you." 

M. " Well, you see this . . ." 

/. 0. " Ah yes, tank you, how motah ..." 

M. " This s\vitch must ..." 

/. 0.~" No ? " 

M. " Yes, this switch must ..." 

/. 0. " Tank you." 

M. " This switch UP . . . savee ? . . . comme 
9 a." 

/. O. " AAAAAAH Tank you, tank you, tank ..." 

M." Oh, that's not all." 

/. O. " Ah yes . . . please . . . tank you ? " 

M. " This one must be . . ." 

/. O. " No onerstand." 

M. " Yes, yes, half a mo', you see . . ." 

/. 0." Tank you." 

M . " Thank you." 

/. 0." No more ? " 

M. " Yes, yes." 

/. 0." Tank you." 

M. " Look ... I start motors." 

/. O. " AH yes. Tank you . . . very O-blige, 
tank you." 

M. " Come on board and have something ? " 

/. 0." AH yes." 

M . " Savee ? like saki." 

/. 0. (Smiles.) " Ah yes, I onerstand tank you." 

With a French officer I had a somewhat different 

French Officer. " Tonnerrrrre, mon bateau a ete" 
pille. She eez destmcted I say." 

Myself. " Ah, les allemands ont fait cela, ce n'est 
pas nous." 

F. 0. " Mais bien sur, ce n'est pas les anglais, je 
comprends c'est les boches qui ont fait tout ce debris. 

Ah ! comme je de"teste ces , , . 


252 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918 

M. " Oui, les , , bodies." 

F. 0. " Mais, monsieur parle fran9ais avec facilite." 

M . " Oui, ma mere parle tres bien." 

F. 0. " Ha, ha ! c'est rigolo cela, madame votre 
mere ne vous a pas appris toute votre vocabulaire, 

M. " Quelques mots j'ai appris en ecole c'est vrai." 

F. 0. " Dites-moi comment dites-vous en anglais 
' Ces bodies ' ? " 

M." Those Huns." 

F. 0. (Hailing his first lieutenant.) " He", Gaston, 

viens voir ce que ' zoze 'Uns ' ont fait dans notre 


We have heard that our indefatigable representatives 
over in Germany have discovered another 170 U.-boats, 
and they are all coming here ! 

It is a hard life is the sailor's ! However, to-night we 
have a rehearsal of our Jazz band, which will enable us 
to forget the war, I mean the Armistice. 

The instruments are : 

(a) A piano. 

(b) A water-can, hit with a hammer. 

(c) A fog-horn. 

(d) Fire-main branch pipes as horns (they require 

strong lungs). 

(e) Copper lamp-shades with a poker (as rattles). 
(/) Tin whistles. 

(g) Pillar-box, made out of a collision-head, hit with 

a soup ladle. 

(h) lo-lb. coffee-tin, worked with forks. 
(i) Ash trays as cymbals 
(j) Small incidentals. 
(k) Everyone singing. 
(/) Conductor, with Irish blackthorn. 
It makes a considerable noise, and on this harmonious 
note I propose concluding this book. 

000653254 3